Al Ain: River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo says Al Ain’s exertions in the Fifa Club World Cup won’t have tired them, and despite being on a high from having just won the Copa Libertadores, Los Millonarios still have to be wary.
Al Ain have had to get through 210 minutes of football in less than a week to face River in Tuesday’s semi-final (at the Hazza Bin Zayed from 8.30pm), beating Wellington 4-3 on penalties in last Wednesday’s play-off before toppling ES Tunis 3-0 in Saturday’s quarter.
Fresh from his own side’s 3-1 win over Boca Juniors in last Sunday’s Copa Libertadores final however, Gallardo said he won’t be bargaining on beating The Boss just because of fatigue.
“I don’t know if that is going to be an advantage to us because clearly the local team is very enthusiastic,” he said. “They have already qualified for the semi, so usually that keeps feelings good. What we saw from them in the last two games was a team very well prepared both physically and mentally.
“We’ve had the chance to see both their matches. It was good to see this team in action. I think it’s going to be a tough match, they have shown they deserve to be in semi.
“They are an enthusiastic team, dangerous when attacking and we will try to have a high degree of concentration so we won’t suffer or be surprised.”
Given that the Argentine outfit have just won the Copa Libertadores against their Buenos Aires city rivals, Gallardo admitted that there was a chance his side could get complacent.
“Copa to the fans was of utmost importance, but we have to focus on what is coming. We are positive but know if we get carried away it will have negative consequences because we know we are going to face a dangerous opponent. I know that, the players know that, so I don’t think we are going to suffer in that sense.”
This is River’s second Club World Cup appearance having lost the final to Barcelona in 2015, but now Gallardo said they wanted to go one better.
“This is different to 2015, the Copa Libertadores ended much earlier, but we are now here with the energy of having just won it, we have the same team, the same players, it’s a different proposal that is very good for us because we have a lot of good energy to face this tournament with a winning wish.
“Clearly our ambition is to play the final, we don’t know against whom, but we have to win tomorrow first. It’s very important for us to play the final and win, it’s a beautiful challenge.”
And if they don’t? “Nothing will change, we’ve got what we’ve got (Copa Libertadores) and that will be a memory forever, but knowing the players as I do I’m convinced that they won’t stop thinking to achieve.
“We want to win tomorrow and then after that we can talk about the title but for the moment we focus on tomorrow’s match and take it very seriously because we want the game after to happen.”
River defender Jonaton Maidana said his teammates would pay particular attention to stopping Al Ain’s Brazilian playmaker Caio Lucas.
“I saw him and I think he’s a top player in their team, of course it’s not only him but his teammates that take advantage of him, but we have to mark him whenever he goes close to not give them that advantage.
“We have to be careful from midfield to attack, they are very fast, tall players, good in the air, we pay attention to that and will show them the same respect we have given all teams before, but I think if we play the way we know we can, we can make the final.”