Dubai: Inaugural winners Al Ain are not simply satisfied with a place in the quarter-finals of this year’s AFC Champions League and are intent on claiming a second continental championship according to forward Mohammad Abdul Rahman ahead of this month’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad.
Al Ain are appearing in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League for the first time since 2006, having won Group C ahead of quarter-final opponents Al Ittihad before edging out fellow Arabian Gulf League side Al Jazira in the last 16.
Al Ain entertain two-time AFC Champions League winners Al Ittihad in the first leg at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on August 19 ahead of the return fixture a week later in Saudi Arabia.
And, following a pre-season training camp in Italy and victory over Saudi Pro League champions Al Nasr and AFC Cup quarter-finalists Kuwait Sports Club in an exhibition tournament, Abdul Rahman is confident of emulating the feats of the 2003 side.
“I think qualifying for the quarter-finals of the ACL is not an achievement because Al Ain already won the title in 2003 and reached higher levels in the competition. True achievement is when you win a trophy or a cup,” said the 25-year-old UAE international, who has scored three times for Al Ain in the AFC Champions League this season.
“The team was unlucky before to not qualify for the quarter-finals, but now we are moving ahead steadily in the ACL and reaching this level in the competition is so important and a big morale push to win the title, which is our aim.
“Although, of course, we have to focus on each stage one by one, and now we are only thinking about our first match against Al Ittihad.”
Abdul Rahman recently signed a contract extension with the 2014 President’s Cup winners along with younger brother Khaled, although perhaps the most well-known of the family is prodigiously talented midfield playmaker Omar.
The three Abdul Rahman brothers will be important components of Al Ain’s AFC Champions League hopes along with Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan, who is the top scorer in the AFC Champions League this season with 10 goals, and new signings Lee Myung-joo, Rashid Eisa and Miroslav Stoch.
Al Ain now face an Al Ittihad side who came out on top when the sides met in the 2005 AFC Champions League final before claiming four points against Zlatko Dalic’s side in the group stage this year.
“The first match of the group stage in Makkah was the first time we had played under coach Zlatko, and even though we lost, we played great in the match,” added Abdul Rahman.
“That loss gave us motivation to make it up to the coach, who put all his trust in the team and promised us we’d win the continental championship.
“I think all of Al Ain’s matches against Al Ittihad turn out to be historic ones, so I remember what happened in the past two matches meticulously, and our coming match at home is sure to be an exciting game and the stadium will be full of our fans.”