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Cosmin Olaroiu expects few favours against old side

Dubai: Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu has said his old side Al Sadd are the favourites ahead of Al Ahli’s second AFC Champions League group-stage game on Wednesday.

The Red Knights meet the Qatari 2011 Asian Champions League winners and Fifa Club World Cup bronze medallists from 8.15pm at Rashid Stadium.

Al Ahli are currently second in Group D following a 2-2 opening draw away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, another of Olaroiu’s former sides, last month.

Meanwhile, Al Sadd, who boast former Real Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez among their ranks, are on top of the group after an opening 3-1 win at home to Iran’s Sepahan.

“I have to play against another of my ex-teams,” said Olaroiu, who managed Al Sadd for a season in 2009. “It’s a pleasure to see them again but not a pleasure to play against them. I know their power.

“They won the Champions League with a very high technical standard and they have increased that now with the signing of [Brazilian forward] Rodrigo Tabata. This will be a very difficult game for us, but also for them.”

Al Sadd beat Al Ahli 5-0 away in the AFC Champions League group stages under Olaroiu back in 2010 and, asked if they were still regarded as the favourites to win, the Romanian was quick to agree.

“Yes, all the [Al Sadd] players playing now have this experience and it gives them a lot of confidence,” he said. “But I’m happy that both teams play the same attacking style of football.

“I know all of them [the Al Sadd players], especially the young players who are starting to arrive at the level that I had previously expected. I know their abilities and I know they can play good football. Al Sadd are a strong team but we are also stronger than before and we expect a good attacking show.”

Olaroiu’s side currently lead the Arabian Gulf League and remain in contention in both domestic cup competitions with a must-win League Cup semi-final clash against Sharjah on Saturday.

“It’s a little difficult for us because we are still involved in all competitions,” he added. “But even though the AFC Champions League is not our main priority, we will still try our best in this competition.”

Meanwhile, Al Sadd coach Hussain Amotta played down the significance of his club’s previous achievements. And with Al Sadd currently lying third in the Qatar Stars League, compared to Al Ahli’s table-topping form, he predicted a much closer game.

“After five years, almost 80 per cent of the squad has changed,” said the Moroccan, who took over in 2012. “Both teams now have good players, especially strikers and, over the last two years, results have improved. It would be hard for this result [5-0] to happen again.

“We know this match is going to be very difficult, especially as Al Ahli are in a good position. They are technically very good and have the support of their fans. In order to get a result, we will have to be ready mentally and technically and do all we can on the field.”

Elsewhere on Wednesday, fellow UAE club Al Ain travel away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad.

The Boss are top of Group C following an opening 2-1 win at home to Qatar’s Al Lekhwiya last month, while their Jeddah-based opponents are bottom after an opening 1-0 loss away to Iran’s Tractor Sazi.

AFC Champions League fixtures

Al Ahli vs Al Sadd, 8.15pm Wednesday

Al Ittihad vs Al Ain, 9.20pm Wednesday