A mouthwatering tie awaits in the 2018 AFC Champions League round of 16 when Al Ain host Al Duhail of Qatar
Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic has a healthy respect for 2018 AFC Champions League rivals Al Duhail rather than fear, ahead of an intriguing round-of-16 clash between dominant domestic double winners.
A 2-1 victory for the 10-man Boss against Al Wasl on Thursday saw them add the President’s Cup to an Arabian Gulf League title claimed with a round to spare. This was the first time the UAE’s most-decorated club had achieved this feat during 50 years of existence.
Knockout opponents Duhail have registered even better results in a relentless first season since last April’s merger with El Jaish. They became just the fourth side in the ACL’s history to win all six group matches, while they were undefeated throughout the 2017/18 QNB Stars League and also took the Qatar Cup.
These achievements tee up a tantalising two-legged clash, beginning with Tuesday’s meeting at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“We also made a great season and won the double,” said Mamic, whose troops drew their opening four Group D-fixtures to come home second. “I am not scared, but I have lots of respect for Al Duhail.
“This is because they have had a great season, they’ve won the double and did very good in the group stage.
“But this is only respect. We also have a very ,very good team that is full of quality.”
Mamic’s achievements in his first full season at the helm have been made more impressive by the fact they ended a near three-year trophy drought.
Brazilian forward Caio expanded on the confidence buzzing around the dressing room.
He said: “I feel good and the whole team feels very good. This is because we took two titles.”
Suspensions to influential Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat and UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem hamper the Al Ain case.
“I have to think about replacements,” said a pragmatic Mamic.
“This is the normal law in football. Thanks to God, we have good replacements.”
Duhail will be without electric Tunisia winger Youssef Msakni after last month’s serious knee injury ended his World Cup 2018 dream.