Al-Ain come into the Lokomotiv match after a poor end to the season domestically. Their failure in grasping one of the league title, league cup or President’s Cup left them with an empty-handed season as rivals Al-Ahli, Al-Wahda and Al-Jazira all celebrated with honours. Since then, after Zlatko Dalic was expected to be fired and sign for Al-Taawon, an ad featuring Al-Ain players deemed disrespectful to the UAE National Anthem saw an immediate change in the board of directors and surprisingly, Dalic was offered an extension. Fans have now – instead of complaining – announced their full support for the Croatian ahead of a make or break period.
What Zlatko Dalic said of the match: “I’ve had 10 days with my team. It’s not enough, but I believe in them.”
Current form (Asian Champions League): L-L-W-W-D-W-D-W
Summer 2016 Transfers:
Al-Ain have gone all out to sign one of UAE’s finest in Amer Abdulrahman, who will be partnering Lee Myung-Joo in central midfield. Although doubts were raised as to the similar styles of play that both midfielders offer, no one is doubting the sheer talent and experience that Abdulrahman will bring. Al-Ain now have brothers Omar and Mohammad Abdulrahman alongside namesake Amer Abdulrahman.
Caio Fernandes was brought in on the left wing after Ryan Babel’s disastrous half-season at Al-Ain. Al-Ain’s fans are generally impatient with foreigners and with Babel’s disaster comes more impatience. With the next 3 months crucial for any Champions League victory, fans are hoping Caio hits the ground running and performs in the said time frame.
Danillo Asprilla (Colombia) – Caio Fernandes (Brazil) – Dyanfres Douglas (Brazil) – Lee Myung-Joo (South Korea)
Road to the quarter-final:
Al-Ain were all but out of the competition in gameweek 3. Two straight losses to Qatari outfit El-Jaish saw “Dalic out” responses coming out after Al-Ain were also on the verge of losing ground on their title chase with Al-Ahli domestically. They faced the best Saudi team, Al-Ahli, who would soon go onto becoming league champions. Al-Ain were not expected to take any points from their encounter in Saudi Arabia.
An Omar Abdulrahman (as usual) performance led Al-Ain to an unlikely victory in Jeddah, before his free-kick separated the sides during the return leg in Al-Ain helping The Boss to 6 points and back to normal operations. They drew with Uzbek side Nasaf Qarshi in gameweek 5, but Danillo Asprilla popped up to engineer a vital win and achieve qualification to the Round of 16 for the Emiratis.
Zob Ahan were not the hardest Iranian side at this point but they did certainly pose a threat. Lebanese right-back Ali Hamam put in the performance of his life to stop Al-Ain from taking the lead – including a double goal line clearance – but a 1-1 draw was all Zob Ahan could come out of in Al-Ain. The away goal wouldn’t prove important at all for the Iranians who failed to pose any threat of note at home like Tractor Sazi did. Al-Ain were victors and subsequently became the second Emirati side to represent the nation in the quarter-finals.
Omar Abdulrahman: The maestro just doesn’t stop. Improving on his set-piece deliveries over the last season has made him steal the limelight to a greater extent than usual. Yet unlike what many people think he’s not just an aesthetically pleasing player. His tactical role is largely overshadowed by his technical ability. He helps Al-Ain build play (although with Amer Abdulrahman that may no longer be necessary), combine on the flanks and evade players in tight spaces. There is no better player than Omar Abdulrahman in the region – even you, Omar Al-Somah.
Dyanfres Douglas: The striker leaves Al-Ain fans fighting against each other. Is he good, or is he not? Well, he’s a bit of both. His touch is appalling, although with the relative quality of the defenders in the local league it isn’t too much of a problem. He may struggle against the bigger clubs, but that’ll depend on the role Dalic plays him in. He’s most threatening when inside the box and with Amer and Omar Abdulrahman both building play for Al-Ain and support coming from Asprilla and Caio, Douglas needn’t worry about what is going on behind him.
Lee Myung-Joo: The South Korean market is wonderful. Even the mid-tier players in those leagues become a big part of the Emirati teams’ set-up. Their attitude is on point, they always listen to the manager and they are well-rounded, often multi-skilled players. Lee Myung-Joo is one of those guys. He’s positionally intelligent, great defensively and offers a different dimension in attack. He keeps everything well-connected, and fans love him.
Stats compiled by @TheLegendaryMoh on Lokomotiv, who are mid-way through their season unlike Al-Ain who will start their new season tomorrow: