Sports News of Monday, 18 August 2014
UAE giants Al Ain will be relying on Ghana’s outstanding striker Asamoah Gyan when they play in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The field of contenders for the Asian Champions League this season is tough with several former champions seeking to advance to the last four of the competition.
Former AFC Champions League champions Al Ain, Al Ittihad, and Al Sadd as well as two-time Asian Club Championship winners Al Hilal will feature on Tuesday as the AFC Champions League returns with the quarter-final first legs.
Al Ain will be counting heavily on Gyan who has been in explosive form his excellent showing at the World Cup in Brazil in June.
Following that showing Al Ain offered him a bumper contract extension to prevent other clubs in the world from closing in on him to sign him.
With an excellent pre-season training, Gyan is expected to give Al Ain the needed push to advance over a tough Saudi Arabia side.
Inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain of the UAE entertain two-time winners Al Ittihad from Saudi Arabia at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in a repeat of the 2005 final, while in another re-match from the group stage, 2011 winners Al Sadd from Qatar travel to Riyadh to take on Al Hilal, two-time winners of the Asian Club Championship.
Al Ain, who emerged victorious in 2003, sealed a return to the last eight of the AFC Champions League for the first time since 2006 having won Group C ahead of Al Ittihad before edging out fellow UAE side Al Jazira in the last 16.
“I expect them to be hard matches. Al Ittihad has a very young, fast and dangerous team who enjoy great support from their fans. We have to be very careful in defence and try to impose our style on the game,” said Al Ain coachZlatko Dalic.
“Their key players are Fahad Al Muwallad and Mukhtar Fallatah. Muwallad is a very fast player and Fallatah a striker that can score goals with ease.
“I will prepare my team to stop them, though, and try and starve these two in particular of possession. “Their counterattack is a particular threat and we will have to find a way to nullify that. “It will be a difficult task, but I believe in my team and that we will qualify for the semi-finals.”
Al Ittihad had endured a turbulent start to their domestic and continental campaigns as Uruguayan coach Juan Verzeri departed after just two months to be replaced by former Saudi Arabia U-22 coach Khalid Al Koroni following February’s defeat by Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz in their AFC Champions League opener.
But 2004 and 2005 champions Al Ittihad earned a place in the last eight for a third time in four years after claiming four points against Al Ain in the group stage before edging out fellow Saudi Pro League side Al Shabab 4-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16.