Fancied Fanja faces Al Jaish

A file photo of Fanja players (in yellow) in action during a recent OPL match

Fanja coach Hicham Jadrane isn't happy with having to play back-to-back domestic league matches without much of a break as his fancied team takes on Syrian club Al Jaish in their Group B opener of the AFC Cup at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Wednesday.

The match will begin at 7pm.

Fanja won a direct spot in the tournament after finishing runner-up to Suwaiq in last year's domestic league. Al Jaish also made a direct entry after clinching the 2013 Syrian domestic league crown.

Hicham

Fanja coach Hicham Jadrane

Kuwait SC, the defending champion of the AFC Cup, and Libya's Nejmeh are the other two sides in the group.

Jadrane said the Omantel Professional League (OPL) should consider re-jigging domestic fixtures so that Omani teams in the AFC Cup get necessary rest to stay fresh for the prestigious continental tournament. Suwaiq is the other Omani side in the AFC Cup this year.

Jadrane said, “It is very difficult to perform well in so many games, if you are playing one after another. We played our last match in the OPL just four days back.” Fanja hammered Majees 5-0 in that game at the Seeb Sports Stadium.

The Fanja coach said, “The players need rest to put on a good show in the AFC Cup. Having said that, we have prepared as much as we could. Hopefully, we will be able to challenge the visitors.”

Anas

Al Jaish coach Anas Makhlouf

Fanja currently tops the OPL table and its Spanish coach believes the players need to take both the OPL and the AFC Cup commitments in their stride.

“There is definitely pressure on us to keep our top position in the OPL. The boys have been really focussed and we are taking things one game at a time. We are banking on our players' professionalism, which brings the team together,” he said.

For Al Jaish, which is playing in the AFC Cup after a two-year absence, this match is an 'opportunity for its youngsters to face professional players from the region', according to the Syrian club's coach Anas Makhlouf.

“We are a relatively young club and we don't have any national team players. We haven't had any special preparations for this match other than the usual practice sessions. We believe that is enough for us as we want to play our natural game tomorrow,” said Makhlouf.

The former Syria international said he has seen Fanja play and his team has a gameplan to counter the Omani team's style.

“Fanja is a good team with a number of professional players,” the Al Jaish coach said. “They are in good form. It will be a difficult game for us. All the teams in this competition are on top of their game.”

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