Al Ain: The garden city of Al Ain is all set to bleed purple but the ‘Boss’ has been hit by virus ahead of their Fifa Club World Cup quarter-final encounter against African Champions ES Tunis at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on Saturday.
Al Ain’s Swedish striker Marcus Berg and their young midfielder Yahia Nader have not yet fully recovered from the viral fever.
Defensive midfielder Ahmad Berman also has a niggle and the support staff are battling against time to get them ready for the contest.
“The biggest problem is the virus that has struck our team. Berg is not 100 per cent and so is Yahia. There are some problem for other players as well and hopefully, all of them will be ready for the match. And also with the red card we have lost one player in the last match,” informed coach Zoran Mamic in the pre-match press conference.
Despite running a high temperature, Berg had to come to the team’s aid in the last quarter against Wellington and his all-important goal took the match into the tie-breaker.
Berg then missed a penalty but that didn’t hurt much as Al Ain won on penalties 4-3 following the heroics from their goalkeeper Khalid Eisa.
The hosts were involved in an absorbing 120-minute contest against Team Wellington on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see how much Al Ain has recuperated after that showing.
“It is a very short period of break after those 120 minutes but in this tournament, we know it will be game every three days and hence we knew we had to make use of these three days in the best possible way. Yes, advantage for ES Tunis but this is football,” said Mamic, whose left-back Mohammad Ahmad revealed that the fitness worries have not hampered their determination going into the clash.
“It is up to the medical staff to get the players ready but others are upbeat. The others in the team are preparing well and whoever will be on the field, the eleven, will be giving their best,” asserted Ahmad, whose team will be meeting Argentine giants River Plate in the semi-finals if they get past this hurdle.
ES Tunis made it to the tournament following the stunning victory in the CAF Champions League. Egyptian top club Al Ahly were strong favourites to beat them over the two legs of the CAF Champions League final. ES Tunis lost 3-1 in Alexandria but fashioned a brilliant comeback in the second leg, winning 3-0 to claim the title 4-3 on aggregate.
ES Tunis coach Mouine Chaabani clearly seems to have done his homework well before this encounter. He knew most of the players in the Al Ain team by their name and rated their opponents as a crack side with plenty of quality players.
“The character that Al Ain showed in the first match was tremendous. They have good players, especially foreign players like Berg, Caio and the Japanese player (Tsukasa) Shiotani who can make the difference at any time. This match is going to be a difficult match for us but the main beneficiary will be those who come to watch this game,” said Chaabani.
“It would affect but very little as we had faced this experienced before in the CAF Championship when we played four matches within 15 days. We still went on to do well and hence I don’t think that puts Al Ain in any negative position going into the clash,” felt Chaabani, whose defender Iheb Mbarki went on to reveal that all the players are upbeat and raring to go.
“We are aiming to achieve more, particularly in this competition. Our objective is to return with a good result from the first games. As for us, we are the CAF champions and the best team. We want to show the best performance.”