History beckons Al Ain in Club World Cup final

History beckons Al Ain in Club World Cup final
Al Ain FC players during training ahead of their final match of the Fifa Club World Cup final

Abu Dhabi - Al Ain will be playing sixth match in 18 days

By Ashwani Kumar

Published: Fri 21 Dec 2018, 8:43 PM

Last updated: Fri 21 Dec 2018, 10:48 PM

Al Ain stand on the cusp of making history as they face Real Madrid in the finals of the Fifa Club World Cup UAE 2018 at Zayed Sports City on Saturday.
Al Ain, if they win, will become the first Asian country to win the prized trophy. Meanwhile, the Spanish club aim to secure their third consecutive and fourth overall championship.
Al Ain coach Zoran Mamic felt Real Madrid will go flat out.
"When they have a chance to win another trophy, they will do everything to get that. So we have to play at the highest possible level. We need to have some luck. We need the person who works on the pitch to make the goal a bit smaller," he said in lighter vein.
The coach noted that Al Ain are going to be stretched.
"We will be playing sixth match in 18 days. It is very hard but we will play the final like we play our first match. We are very tired but all are very motivated. We have used our three days of break to recover well."
He noted that Real are big favourite and then drew an uncanny comparison.
"This is race between smart and Mercedes. But sometimes the machine doesn't do well for Mercedes and you can use the chance."
The Croatian said whole Al Ain machinery will unite to stop Real.
"Any Real player can decide the fate of the match. So we need to unite and work together and only then we can make a good game."
Mamic draws confidence from Al Jazira's performance last year against Real in the semis.
"Even when you play against Real, you surely have a dream. Maybe they miss chances and you have a good day. Last year, Real Madrid had some 10 chances in the first half against Al Jazira but they didn't score.  So everything is possible. We have to believe and try. After the match, if we need to look in the mirror and say we have given everything."
Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari said the Al Ain, the finalist, were enjoying rub of the green and his players were cautious.
"Our players are a bit nervous. Al Ain had lot of fouls (versus River Plate). Al Ain took advantage of that (relaxed refereeing) against River. We will do our best to prevent that from happening in the final."
He noted Al Ain are solid in defence and push on counter attack with their speed.
"Al Ain try and take advantage of dead ball situation. They also try to gain advantage in illegal way by blocking players and hiding such things from referee."
When Al Ain coach was asked about Solari's remarks, Mamic said: "We never received any support from referees. In fact in last game we were denied a goal."
The war of words will be settled with actions on the field. For Real, striker Marco Asensio is unavailable after suffering a muscle injury. Al Ain will for the first time ever sport black jersey. The stage is set to write a new chapter in history of Asian and regional football.

Today's Matches (UAE Time)
Third place:
Kashima Antlers v River Plate (5:30pm)
Real Madrid v Al Ain (8:30pm)

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