Al Ahli coach Cosmin Olaroiu has put the weight of expectation on Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao by claiming there is no pressure on his team heading into the AFC Champions League final.
Olaroiu and Co. will welcome Chinese champions Guangzhou to Al-Rashid Stadium in Dubai for Saturday’s opening leg.
Al Ahli are featuring in their maiden Champions League final, having qualified for the knockout round for the first time following group-stage exits in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2014.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou, who hoisted the Chinese Super League trophy aloft last week, are set contest a second continental final after winning the 2013 showpiece.
With that in mind, Olaroiu believes his Emirati outfit have nothing to lose against Luiz Felipe Scolari’s big spenders.
“We don’t have any pressure; we are just enjoying being here. When we started our target was to pass the group for the first time in the history of the club,” said the former Saudi Arabia coach.
“Then we fixed the target of getting past Al Ain and into the quarter-final, and then the semi-final, and now we are here and hope to win the trophy.”
Al Ahli booked their spot in the decider courtesy of a 4-3 aggregate win over 2014 runners-up Al Hilal last month, despite an appeal.
Kwon Kyung-won was the hero for Al Ahli, with his 90th-minute strike securing a dramatic 3-2 victory, but Saudi giants Al Hilal sought to have the semi-final loss overturned for the fielding of winger Oussama Assaidi, who they claimed was ineligible.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), however, dismissed the appeal.
Guangzhou’s road to the final has been a lot less dramatic, having seen off Gamba Osaka 2-1 over two legs.
Olaroiu added: “I have confidence in all my team and all my players, and also Guangzhou have good players and have three strikers with Gao Lin, [Ricardo] Goulart and Elkeson and they are very good.
“It is important to play a good game and for everyone to enjoy and for everyone to look forward to the AFC Champions League final.”