Al Hilal boss Giorgos Donis is full of admiration for Al Jazira despite his impending AFC Champions League opponents’ travails.
Tonight’s combatants in Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium are experiencing contrasting seasons. The hosts are bottom of Group C in Asia and a distant seventh in the Arabian Gulf League, while Hilal are second in both the Saudi Professional League and their continental pool.
But the ex-Panathinaikos and Blackburn Rovers midfielder was taking nothing for granted.
“Every game in the AFC Champions League is very important,” Donis insisted. “We have four points in the two games and have to fight for every game.
“We respect Al Jazira, in the last games they improved a lot. I watched the last four-five games, they have some good players.
“They try a lot and are fighting and we expect a very tough game.”
The two-time Asian kings are back in the UAE just five months after Kwon Kyung-won’s injury-time winner for Al Ahli denied them a spot in the 2015 final.
Playmaker Thiago Neves had departed for Jazira in an ¤11 million (Dh44.9 million) deal during the previous summer, ending his celebrated second spell in Riyadh. Donis praised his former charge, who is an injury doubt.
He said: “I like a lot Thiago Neves. Last year, we had very good cooperation and he helped us a lot.
“We respect him, we know he’s a good player.
“But we know he’s not the only one at Al Jazira.”
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