Al Ahli-Auckland City preview

Dubai-based Al Ahli have the honour of raising the curtain at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009, when they square off against Oceania representatives Auckland City in the play-off for a place in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

The match
Al Ahli–Auckland City, Mohammed Ben Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, Wednesday 9 December, 20.00 (local time)

The stakes
UAE League champions Al Ahli have every incentive to impress in the opening game. The Dubai side collected their fifth championship title in May, and are looking to set the seal on a magnificent year with a convincing display in their first FIFA Club World Cup appearance.

Opponents Auckland City have not travelled to the United Arab Emirates just to make up the numbers. The New Zealanders appeared in the competition once before, losing 2-0 to Egypt’s Al Ahly and 3-0 to Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Motors in 2006, a record they are anxious to set straight on this occasion. With both sides looking for their first win in the tournament, something has to give.

The stat
The number of goals the Kiwi side scored in their one and only appearance in the competition to date, at Japan 2006.

The birthday
Running out for new boys Al Ahli in the tournament opener will be Mehrzad Madanchi, who turns 30 on Wednesday. There are no prizes for guessing how the Iranian midfielder would like to celebrate the occasion.

The quotes
“We have two difficult matches to win before we can meet Barcelona. You always have to achieve big things to make your dreams come true and, as far as I’m concerned, the bigger the match, the better.” Al Ahli forward Jader Volnei Spindler, better known as Bare.

“We didn’t score a single goal in 2006 and that was a big disappointment for us. We’ve prepared well this year though, and we’re going to score a lot of goals. We’ve been talking about this match for weeks now and we need to go out and execute our gameplan.” Auckland City captain Ivan Vicelich.