Al Ain must overturn a 4-2 first-leg deficit to make the 2018 AFC Champions League quarter-finals, but coach Zoran Mamic is keeping the faith
Last week’s clash of the domestic double winners at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium proved surprisingly one sided as the visitors stormed to a stunning 4-2 first-leg advantage.
A huge task now awaits the 2002/03 winners on Tuesday at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium to overturn this yawning deficit against rampant opponents who were undefeated in the QNB Stars League, have won all seven Asian fixtures and are on a 19-match winning streak in all competitions.
“Despite the poor score in Al Ain, our chances remain in the competition for qualification to the next stage,” declared ex-Croatia defender Mamic, whose team must score a minimum three times.
“All possibilities are always open in football. It does not recognise talk of the impossible.
“We have to deal realistically and fight to the last minute.”
The Boss will be without Brazilian forward Caio after his late dismissal for kicking out. But productive midfielder Hussein El Shahat – snubbed this week for Egypt’s World Cup 2018 squad – and veteran UAE centre-back Mohanad Salem return from suspension.
Mamic was particularly pleased to see January addition El Shahat back.
He said: “Every player has his style and there is no specific player who will replace Caio. But my team has a good number of players and we will not forget that we will see the return of Hussein El Shahat.”