Al Ain boss Zlatko Dalic has told his daydreaming players they must cut out sloppy errors if they want to enjoy a victorious opening to their 2016 AFC Champions League campaign against El Jaish.
The reigning UAE champions relinquished top spot in the to Al Ahli at the weekend after struggling Al Shabab twice hit them on the counter to inflict a shock 2-1 defeat.
The Boss host opposition from the Qatar Stars League as Group D gets under way and Dalic has demanded an improvement in concentration as he looks to improve on last year’s disappointing round-of-16 exit.
He said: “It’s a new competition, it’s different from the league. The players are ready for this competition, they know how special this is to Al Ain.
“We need to forget about what happened last year and focus on 2016. I have been in the Champions League for the last four years (at Al Ain and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal), I have experience, I know how we can pass. I’m just worrying because of mistakes.
“In the last game (against Al Shabab), for each personal mistake we paid the price. And we must not make personal mistakes.
“We didn’t deserve to lose in the last game. But I agree it is not an easy time now for us.
“It would be better if we played against El Jaish after a win, but we need to get back to winning ways and to win the next game because we have many games coming up and this is the first game in the Champions League.”
UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem reinforced his coach’s message and vowed that the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium crowd would be treated to a better display.
He said: “We have made mistakes previously, but the coach sits with us and we are working to avoid these mistakes. I know the fans were not happy with our last (game), so we promise to be better.”
The 2003 winners are hotly-tipped to impress this year, with anything but a repeat of 2014’s run to the semi-finals being considered a failure. UAE Under-23 defensive midfielder Ahmed Barman is set to return from injury, but Colombian flyer Danilo Asprilla will be out for the next three to four weeks with a hamstring complaint.
A positive result is a must against a side who sit a distant third in the QSL and lost 3-0 at the weekend to giants Lekhwiya. Jaish boss Sabri Lamouchi – a former France and Internazionale midfielder – paid Al Ain a compliment by calling them “the best team in the Middle East”.
He said: “We are very happy to be here because it is really impotant to play in the AFC Champions League.
“We know we will face the best team in the Middle East and it will be a very difficult game for us. It will be a very tough game and an important test.”
Former Marseille centre-back Lucas Mendes and nine-goal Uzbekistan midfielder Sardor Rashidov are both doubts for the visitors.
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