Gulf News – DUBAI, Dutchman says Club World Cup experience has readied them for the Azadi crowd factor
Al Jazira coach Henk ten Cate says the pressure is on hosts Persepolis ahead of their Asian Champions League Last 16-second leg in Iran on Monday from 7pm.
The Abu Dhabi-club beat the Iranians 3-2 at home last week and take a one-goal lead to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, where crowds of up to 80,000 are expected.
“A draw is enough for us,” said the Dutchman. “We don’t need to win, the pressure is on them.
“Persepolis will have a lot of people in the stadium supporting them but also the expectation is very high, so this gives extra stress, which we don’t have.
“We are a small club from a small country and we come here to play in this beautiful city for the first time, we’ll enjoy this game tomorrow and hope to make the people of Abu Dhabi proud.”
Ten Cate added that playing in front of big crowds would only excite and boost his players, who experienced the same in last December’s Fifa Club World Cup, where they gracefully bowed out 2-1 to Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
“It’s not that many times that we play in front of lots of people,” he said.
“I recall the games we played in the Club World Cup with lots of people and it only excited my players.
“It gave them an extra boost because as a player you always like to play for a lot of people to show your ability, to show your skills, and this is going to happen on Monday, so we are all looking forward to it.
“We know what to expect here. We’ve seen them play more than once and know their strengths and also their weaknesses and this is what we showed last week.”
Al Jazira faced accusations of time wasting after last week’s first leg, which was won courtesy of a 96th minute winner from Khalifa Al Hammadi, but Ten Cate said this wasn’t in his DNA. “I think the contrary to be honest if you look at the first leg, this is not in my DNA, I’m from Europe, we play different football, I was raised differently as a coach and a player, it’s not part of our philosophy.
“We like to play football like men but clean. Maybe we didn’t defend nicely at the end and kicked the ball into the stands, but this is part of football, it’s nothing to do with killing the game, I’m not like that, even against Real Madrid.
“This young team played Real Madrid and managed a good game before losing 2-1 at the end, but we didn’t kill the game, we just played football.”