As domestic champion Fanja prepares for its last group league match in the 2013 AFC Cup against Yemen's Al Ahli Taiz at home, coach Hicham Jadrane is confident his team will progress to the last-16 knockout stage. The Fanja-Ahli Taiz game is slated for May 1.
Fanja is in second place in Group B with seven points, behind runaway leader Arbil of Iraq, which has already advanced to the pre-quarterfinals with 15 points.
Lebanon's Al Ansar also has seven points, but it trails Fanja on goal-difference. Yemen's Ahli Taiz is at the bottom without a point.
Jadrane, who took charge in March when Fanja began its AFC Cup campaign, said, “We are playing Ahli Taiz at home and I am confident of a victory. We had won 2-0 in March, when it was Yemeni club’s home game in Muscat.”
The Spanish coach added, “Crucially, we are in a slightly better position on goal-difference against Al Ansar, which will be away to Arbil against the undefeated hosts. We have a good chance of going into the knockout stage.”
He said, “There's no doubt this competition will become extremely tough from the next round (pre-quarterfinals); and it will be tough for us, too. We hope to keep our level up once we advance.”
Jadrane also eyeing domestic league title
Jadrane's side is also in the hunt for a record ninth domestic title and will match Dhofar's feat if it wins the 2012-2013 Omantel Elite League.
After 23 games each, Saham is on top of the 14-team ladder with 41 points while Suwaiq, also with 41 points, is trailing on goal-difference. Al Nahda is on No 3 with 40 points.
Fanja, which has played 22 matches, is on fourth with 38 points.
Jadrane said, “It's a close fight among the top four teams in the league. Definitely, we are in the race for the title. While the other top teams have three games in hand, we have four left. It looks like there will be no clear leader till the very end.”
Saif al Sumry, Fanja's team manager, said, “Although he [Jadrane] joined the club late into the domestic season, he has done a good job so far.
“The best thing is, he has earned the trust of the players, which is very important for any team that strives to succeed. We are hoping to retain the title.”
Fanja hosts Musannah on May 4 and follows it up with another home game, against Al Arouba on May 8.
It travels to Buraimi to play its penultimate match against former champion Al Nahda on May 12 and rounds up its domestic league campaign on May 19 when it hosts another former winner, Al Nasr.