Coach Sabri Lamouchi insists El Jaish are well prepared for the AFC Champions League quarter-final first leg against the United Arab Emirates’ Al Nasr at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium today.
The Qatari side are making their first ever appearance in the last eight of the continental competition, after seeing off countrymen Lekhwiya 6-4 on aggregate in the last 16.
And while Lamouchi has added to his squad by bringing in the experienced former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita, the Frenchman will be unable to call on the injured four-goal hitman Hamedallah Abderrazzaq.
“Nobody could have imagined El Jaish would be in this position,” said Lamouchi.
“Of course it won’t be an easy game, but we have been training in the United Arab Emirates for three weeks and we are happy to play this game.
“I feel the pressure for all the games, but we always play to win and the players know that. We have the determination; I prefer to play the first leg away, but we are ready for this.”
El Jaish had earlier qualified for the knockout phase for only the second time by winning Group D, while also claiming an impressive double over another Emirati side in inaugural winners Al Ain.
The Qatar Stars League side then continued their impressive run in eliminating Lekhwiya as both Brazilian Romarinho and Moroccan Abderrazzaq took their respective tournament tallies to four goals.
Lamouchi will now look to Mali international Keita to help El Jaish reverse a trend of two successive home wins in the continental competition.
“Before we talk about Seydou Keita, I want to remind you that he is here because Hamedallah is injured,” added Lamouchi. “I want to wish him well and we are waiting for him to return.
“It will be Seydou’s first official game. We need his experience for tomorrow and in the Qatar Star League. Of course he’s a big name and hopefully he will do well.”
Captain Mohammad Abdurahman, meanwhile, is looking for his team to maintain their form as El Jaish aim to become the first Qatari side to reach the last four since Al Sadd in 2011.
“It’s a great opportunity to do well at Asian level. We will try hard to please our fans.”
Key player: Sardor Rashidov El Jaish
AFC Champions League Record
Appearances: 26 Goals: 4
Uzbekistan forward Sardor Rashidov has enjoyed his best AFC Champions League campaign to date, justifying his move from Bunyodkor to Qatari side El Jaish last year.
Now in his sixth continental campaign, despite only recently turning 25, Rashidov has never made it further than the last 16 and so will be doubly-determined to keep El Jaish’s Asian adventure alive during the quarter-final stage and beyond.
Rashidov scored the only goal in the Group Stage win against Nasaf whilst also firing home in the Round of 16 second leg meeting with Lekhwiya as El Jaish defeated their Qatar Stars League rival 6-4 on aggregate.
A star for his national team as well as his club side, with the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifiers due to kick-off in September Rashidov could well be in for busy few months ahead.
IMPORTANCE TO TEAM
A goalscorer, as well as a creator, Rashidov netted nine times in 23 appearances in the 2015-16 domestic campaign for El Jaish as they finished runners-up to Al Rayyan.
Direct on the ball, and boasting height, strength and pace, the left-footed Rashidov also possesses good technique and is a danger from set-pieces.
THE ONES TO WATCH
With Morocco striker Abderrazzaq Hamedallah suffering a knee injury, the onus may well be on Brazilian forward Romarinho to provide the goals and his brace in the Round of 16 against Lekhwiya suggests he can bear that mantle.
In midfield, El Jaish have both Qatari youth and experience in 2014 AFC U-19 Championship MVP Ahmed Moein and striker Magid Mohamed who has over 75 international caps.
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