Al-Ain told to show ‘fight’ against Saudi giants Al-Hilal in AFC Champions League opener
LONDON: Juan Carlos Garrido has called on Al-Ain to show some fighting spirit when they face Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
The UAE club face the Saudi Arabian giants at home in their Group C opener knowing how important it is to get off to a good start. Having only been in the Al-Ain hot seat for two weeks Garrido is aware that all eyes will be on him in his first “big” match as coach of “the Boss” and wants his players to prove they have the backbone to battle hard against their Saudi rivals.
“It is a very special game. The AFC Champions League with two big clubs,” the Spaniard said.
“These are the kind of games everyone wants to be part of, be they a fan, a coach or a player. The motivation is always high for these matches.
“We need 11 fighters, that is the important thing for this match. The fighting spirit is more important than tactics, than techniques, than the formation. The big thing is we need 11 fighters on the pitch against Al-Hilal, that is what our history and our fans demand of us.
“That is what I try to do all my life and that is what our players need to focus on when they face Al-Hilal.”
It has not been an easy introduction to life as Al-Ain coach for Garrido. Defeat in the side’s last league game — a 2-0 defeat to Shabab Al-Ahli — did little to suggest they can beat Al-Hilal. The performance was lifeless and left them eight points behind table-topping Sharjah in the UAE Pro-League.
As if that was not enough they face an Al-Hilal side for whom the AFC Champions League is the main focus. Without a continental title since 2000 the Riyadh club have splashed the cash in a bid to end that drought. They boast ex-France striker Bafetimbi Gomis and former Italy international Sebastian Giovinco, and have lost just once in 22 Saudi Pro League matches this season. The side have also not been affected by the recent change in the dugout with the sacked Jorge Jesus replaced by Zoran Mamic. Mamic has allowed Al-Hilal to play a more attacking game and, to add spice to tonight’s encounter, was poached from Al-Ain.
Garrido, however, does not think that will have too much of a bearing on the result.
“The coach knows the players and they know him so it is important our players do a good job and if we all work together we can get the three points,” Garrido said.
“I have been in charge for two games so far and after each one of course I sit down and come up with concussions of how to improve the team. But this is very different. It is a different competition, it is a top competition and I am 100 percent sure that the players will play with passion and commitment.”