Marcus Berg says there is “no limit” to Al Ain’s ambitions for the new season as the Boss prepare for a mouthwatering AFC Champions League quarter-final clash with Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal next week.
The Garden City side are back in the UAE after their pre-season European tour and warmed up for Monday’s first-leg clash at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium with a routine 3-0 friendly win against Bahrain’s Al Muharraq on Tuesday – in which Berg bagged a brace.
“We are entering the final stage of preparations for the new season and are looking to launch a strong challenge in the first leg of the quarter-final against Al Hilal,” said the 30-year-old Swede, who joined from Greece’s Panathinaikos earlier this summer.
“We have a high ceiling for our ambitions in the new football season. We have great confidence in our ability to achieve a strong result on Monday that will pave the way for us to make it to the semi-finals, especially playing at home among our fans.
“That will strengthen the incentives for the players.”
The Boss return to continental action having dismantled Iran’s Esteghlal 6-2 on aggregate in the last 16 in May, while Monday’s opponents also overcame Iranian opposition in Esteghlal Khuzestan, with Ramon Diaz’s men winning 4-2 over two legs.
Berg is likely to be partnered in attack by Douglas on Monday. The Brazilian was the forgotten man in the Garden City after his confidence plummeted following a penalty miss in the second leg of the ACL final against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors last November.
The 29-year-old was set to be jettisoned but has been brought back in from the cold by Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic this summer after only featuring in seven more games during 2016/17 following the club’s ACL heartache.
He has been included in Al Ain’s renewed 30-man squad list for the remainder of the tournament, as has Japanese defender Tsukasa Shiotani, who joined the club in June.
Douglas opened the scoring for Al Ain in the behind closed doors match at the Hazza on Tuesday.
Hilal, meanwhile, came out on top of a seven-goal thriller in their second match of the new Saudi Pro League season, beating Al Taawoun 4-3 to make it two wins from two – although their porous defence might provide some hope for Al Ain.
Former Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was on the bench for the Crescent after a summer move from Reading, but is not registered for the ACL. In what could be a further boost for the Boss, Hilal’s Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Milesi was also forced off injured in the 33rd minute.
The opening leg of the quarter-final will be played at the Hazza on Monday, kick-off at 19:50.
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