Abu Dhabi: Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic and his team have their task cut out when they host an unbeaten Sharjah in the Arabian Gulf League at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium at 7.30pm on Wednesday.
Sharjah are yet to lose a match in seven outings and are currently at the top of the standings with 17 points — one more than second-placed Al Ain.
Mamic, speaking ahead of the contest, stressed that the team will be looking for nothing less than a win to stake a strong claim at the top of the leaderboard.
“Sharjah is doing well this season being undefeated since the kick-off of the league and they are a well-organised side. They have great offensive and defensive qualities. We will need to be patient and play with the utmost concentration to get the desired result,” said Mamic, who seems to be following a rotation policy and has rested some of his key players of late.
The Croatian brushed aside that it had anything to do other than making sure that the players are rejuvenated and the best XI was on the field.
“Not at all. It is a normal thing,” said Mamic, whose side beat Sharjah 4-1 in the Gulf League Cup last month. “The player who plays well deserves to be one of the starting XI. Do not forget that players sometimes need a break due to exhaustion and injuries. My job is to make the team play football up to the highest standards and players are required to be safe, perform well and implement my instructions on the pitch.”
The coach, however, was of the view that victory last time out will have little effect on the outcome of this match.
“It is a new challenge and a completely different match,” he said. “It is clear that Sharjah has its sights fully set on the League and not the Cup League. We do understand that they are looking forward to maintaining their top spot. We will try to do our best to stop them.”
Mamic urged the Al Ain fans to be there in large numbers to support his side.
Al Ain’s Brazilian striker Caio Fernandes was also confident of his side doing well against Sharjah.
“We believe that we will be able to achieve a great result when we give our 100 per cent and play to our best potential,” he said. “We are confident of dealing with any challenge during the match with complete concentration because our goal is crystal-clear. I’m sure we will be able to snatch the three points and be at the top of the standing table.”
Sharjah coach Ryan Mendez said: “We have a lot of focus on the game and we know we have to do everything possible to get a positive result that keeps us at the top in the league.””
Wednesday: Emirates v Al Nasr (4.50pm), Kalba v Ajman (4.50pm), Al Ain v Sharjah (7.30pm), Bani Yas v Al Dhafra (7.30pm)
Thursday: Dibba v Al Jazira (4.50pm), Al Wahda v Shabab Al Ahli (4.55pm), Al Wasl v Fujairah (7.30pm)