Abu Dhabi: Al Ain are desperate to make amends for the shattering blow of being deposed as Arabian Gulf League champions by Al Ahli last week by maintaining their quest for President’s Cup glory on Thursday evening.
The Boss face Al Wasl in the quarter-finals at Al Jazira’s Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, with their Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla on Tuesday evening outlining his side’s fierce determination to secure silverware.
“We have a great desire to get the trophy,” the January transfer window signing said at a prematch press conference at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
Zlatko Dalic, the Al Ain coach, added that he had the luxury of a fully-fit squad to choose from and said his men were prepared for “all eventualities” of possible extra time and penalties.
“We will seek to resolve matters during normal time, although we are well aware that we are facing a strong opponent,” the Croat said. “But we must compensate for losing the league title by winning the President’s Cup.”
Thursday’s opponents, Al Wasl, were thrown into disarray on Tuesday when the Dubai club confirmed their manager Gabriel Calderon would not be in charge for the tie.
The Argentine has been given a two-day vacation amid doubts over his future, with one of his assistants Saleem Abdul Rahman replacing him.
Nevertheless, despite their travails, Dalic noted that the Cheetahs would present his side with a stern test, reserving particular praise for the Portuguese playmaker Hugo Viana.
“The real danger begins from Viana,” he said, as the Garden City club prepare for a season-defining few weeks — their two-legged AFC Champions League last-16 tie with Iran’s Zob Ahan begins at home next Wednesday.
For Al Jazira, meanwhile, their President’s Cup last-eight encounter with Sharjah at Al Ain’s Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium — also on Thursday evening — is their last chance to claim a trophy this season.
A dismal Arabian Gulf League campaign for the Pride of Abu Dhabi concluded with a seventh-place finish on Sunday, while they suffered the ignominy of finishing at the bottom of their AFC Champions League group.
The club’s embattled coach, Henk ten Cate, said on Tuesday evening that his struggling outfit would “fight strongly” to win their third President’s Cup and that they were full of “eagerness and enthusiasm” for the task ahead.
Ten Cate also warned his men of the threat of Sharjah’s 15-goal Brazilian striker, Wanderley Santos, but dismissed suggestions that his side’s exertions in the league and in the AFC Champions League had taken their toll.
Fares Juma, the Al Jazira central defender, was similarly bullish.
“All our focus is on the quarter-final with Sharjah and we will fight until the end in the cup to save our season,” he said.
Friday’s two quarter-finals involve Al Shaab taking on the newly crowned AGL champions Al Ahli in Sharjah and Emirates facing Bani Yas at Al Nasr Club in Dubai.