Naft Tehran is not a one man team, coach Alireza Mansourian proclaimed ahead of their AFC Champions League encounter with UAE side Al Ain.
Iranian international Morteza Pouraliganji completed a move to Chinese side Tianjin Teda last week in what many considered a blow for the Iranian side. That is not how Mansourian sees it, however.
“Morteza was a very good player for us, but we have players in his level in defence and midfield,” the former St Pauli midfielder said. “Naft is not a one-man team, all of our 23 players are stars and have been involved in goals during the season.”
After an initial loss to Uzbekistan side Pakhtakor last week, Mansourian is determined to ensure Al Ain, the inaugural winners of the AFC Champions League, leave empty-handed when they depart Tehran.
“Although we played good football in the previous match ahainst Pakhtakor, we had some mistakes which resulted in defeat,” he said.
“That game was a big test for us and I have told my players that a football match is 95 minutes, so they have to give their best until the final whistle.
“We know what we want from the match and my players are all ready to take three points. Both teams have analysed each other but we have worked hard during the last 15 days just for this match because we know Al Ain is one of the best teams in Asia.”
While they deservedly have that reputation, their form in the AFC Champions League in the last 10 years belies that reputation, a semi final appearance last year the first time they progressed from the group stage since 2006.
After falling to Al Hilal in the semi final last year, a star studded Al Ain are determined to go one better this season, although they could only managed a goalless draw at home against Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab last week.
“Both teams are trying to make up for the previous game’s results and I have faith in my team”, declared Al Ain coach Zlatko Dalic.
“We’ve had good training sessions and we had the good news about the return of Omar Abdulrahman to the squad, so we’re looking to get a good result.
“Any team that has leapfrogged Esteghlal, Sepahan and Foolad in the Iran Pro League table is definitely a strong team, and in the AFC Champions League there aren’t any weak teams in the competition.
“We are expecting a difficult game but we are here to play good football and get a good result, even a draw would be good for us.”