Al Ain Ready for Tunisian Challenge in Fifa Club World Cup

Published December 14th, 2018 - 11:20 GMT
It will be a test of their character and abilities when they meet the African champions
It will be a test of their character and abilities when they meet the African champions

An upbeat Al Ain will test their mettle against Esperance Sportive de Tunis, the CAF Champions League winners, in the second round of the Fifa Club World Cup at the iconic Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday evening.

The 'Boss' was pushed to the limits in the opening round by Team Wellington. After being 3-0 down, Zoran Mamic's boys staged a stunning comeback to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.

But the victory came after a 120-minute marathon and a penalty shootout drama.

And now Al Ain must produce their best football again against a much better team.

Esperance, the Tunisian side, had thrashed Egyptian giants Al Ahly to secure their third African championship.

So, Al Ain will have their task cut out in an all-Arab battle.

It will be a test of their character and abilities when they meet the African champions.

Al Ain should very well enter the match with a carrot and stick approach because if they win, they will set up a dream battle with Copa Libertadores' winners River Plate in the same venue on Tuesday.

Al Ain, the hosts, have to dream big on the biggest stage of club football. However, coach Mamic is keeping his feet on the ground.

"There is only one game at a time. Esperance are a strong team with skillful players. I have seen some of their matches. We know about their strengths and weaknesses. They are quick with the ball and play attacking game. It will not be easy," he said at the press conference on Friday.

The coach said Al Ain are lucky to be part of the tournament as the host nation and players weren't under pressure but needed to play responsibly.

"We have to be focused throughout the match and be in great spirits. We have to enjoy it and represent the country and the club in the best possible way. I always tell my players to enjoy their time and not put themselves under pressure."

Al Ain, however, face fitness issues with Swedish striker Marcus Berg and young midfielder Yahia Nader yet to recover from fever. Also, Mohamed Abdulrahman will miss the match as a result of red card he got in their last match.

"I am hopeful the players will be fit for the match. We will make a plan after the training session." The coach is banking on fans to stand behind the team as they did in the first match.

"The fans helped us achieve the historic result. We expect them to do the same against Esperance," Mamic added.

Meanwhile, Esperance coach Moine Chaabani said he was hopeful of a positive result despite Al Ain enjoying the momentum.

"Ain will be a tough side. They showed great character in the first match. It is not easy to be down by three goals and then win. We have to be cautious," Chaabani said.

He admitted that the Ainwai fans could be a big inspiration for the home team, but hoped that Tunisian fans will back his team as well on Saturday.

"We will have travelling fans and hope Tunisian residents here and neighbouring countries will also come. Fans can be the 12th man - but perhaps they will be our number nine against Al Ain and help us score goals," he said.

By Ashwani Kumar

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