Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face old club Al-Ain in AFC Champions League opener

Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face old club Al-Ain in AFC Champions League opener

Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face old club Al-Ain in AFC Champions League opener

LONDON: New Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face his old club Al-Ain when the two Arab giants face each other in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
The Croatian replaced Jorge Jesus as coach of Al-Hilal last month, poached from UAE champions Al-Ain. And just weeks into his time in the dugout of the Riyadh club Mamic is set to come face-to-face with his old side.
For some that would be daunting — the extra incentive in such a big clash adding spice to an already much-anticipated clash — but Mamic is embracing what is already a huge challenge.
“I am happy to play the first match of the AFC Champions League against my former team, Al-Ain,” the 47-year-old said.
“It won’t be an easy match (but) I hope to make history by beating Al-Ain in Al-Ain.”
The Group C opener pits the runaway leaders of the Saudi Pro League against the UAE champions who made it all the way to the FIFA Club World Cup final in December. Since then, however, they have fallen eight points behind table-topping Sharjah in the Arabian Gulf League and come into the clash on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Shabab Al-Ahli.
Added to that the AFC Champions League is the one trophy Al-Hilal want to win — the Riyadh giants having splashed the cash to bring quality players such as Bafetimbi Gomis and Sebastian Giovinco to the club.
But while Al-Hilal go into the continental clash as slight favorites Mamic is taking nothing for granted.
“Regardless of their current situation Al-Ain have the ability to overcome current setbacks, they have outstanding players,” the club’s former boss said.
“They are going through difficult circumstances but everything can change in one match.”
With another Saudi Pro League title expected Mamic will be judged on how Al-Hilal perform in the AFC Champions League. Last season they feel at the first hurdle, with a early exit in the group stage, a poor start in the competition contributed to Ramon Diaz’s sacking. Keen to avoid the same fate Mamic has called on his players to get off to a great start.
“It is important to start the competition with a victory,” the Croatian said.
“We are going to go all out for the three points.”

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