By Sports Reporter /Doha
Al Rayyan and Al Sadd will add another chapter to their famed rivalry when they clash in the first of their two ‘Qatar Clasico’ matches in the QNB Stars League today. The match begins at 5.55pm.
With both clubs boasting some of the most passionate fans in the country, sparks are expected to fly at Al Sadd Stadium where the Xavi-led hosts will be without Hassan al-Haydos because of injury.
National captain al-Haydos had been a key player in Al Sadd’s conquests for several years, but coach Jesualdo Ferreira was adamant that his absence won’t be felt that much because of the team’s ‘balance’.
“Hassan al-Haydos has been injured since the beginning of the season and we played a lot of games without him. The most important thing now is the balance in the team despite the absences and that is what we are trying to achieve,” said Ferreira at his pre-match press conference.
The veteran Portuguese tactician is enjoying his stint in Qatar, even going on to say that the ongoing season has been the best for him.
“This season is the best for me with Al Sadd for many reasons. There is great harmony between the players, for one. Also, the new additions to the squad have been excellent and to top it all we are in the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League,” said Ferreira
However he stressed that he needed to keep the players safe from injury as they are playing too many matches.
“I hope none of our players gets injured due to the fatigue that they suffered of late. Our players are overworked as they also have a lot of international commitments. We need to field players in such a way that they don’t pick up injuries.”
Ferreira also appealed to Al Sadd fans to turn up at the stadium in large numbers.
“It is going to be a great encounter and I urge all our fans to be at the stadium to cheer us on. Both teams are looking to win in order to take the lead in the standings and the game will be open.”
Al Rayyan coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena is also looking for a win as it will help them overtake Al Arabi and lead the standings.
Al Arabi have 12 points from six matches while Al Rayyan are second with 11, one more than Al Sadd.
“We are going to play an important game. We will face one of the best teams in the QNB Stars League, which is a strong competition in Asia. We respect Al Sadd, but we will play the game in our style and we hope to succeed,” said Arruabarrena.
“I also hope the game will be played in a good atmosphere, true to the spirit of Qatar Clasico, and fans will enjoy the action when both teams will fight it out on the field.
“We are at the top of standings now, which means we have to win the games to stay there. The leaders at this stage need not finish the tournament in the same position.
“I do not have anything to worry about before the game, but I know we’re also going to face one of the best teams in Asia. We know their strengths and weaknesses, but we will primarily focus on our ability.”
Al Rayyan also have injury problems with new Brazilian striker Luca and defender Gonzalo Vieira doubtful.
In today’s other important match, Al Duhail will be aiming to bring some cheer to their fans after their heart-breaking exit from the AFC Champions League when they meet Al Gharafa.
Duhail were beaten by Iran’s Persepolis 3-2 on aggregate earlier this week in Tehran, the top Qatari side also missing out on the AFC Champions League record of 10 successive victories in the process.
“It is a tough game, especially psychologically, after our AFC Champions League exit in the quarter-final stage. We are trying to boost the morale of the players because,” said Maaloul.
“Now we are in the QNB Stars League and we are still missing Luis Martin due to his injury. But we have a strong pool of young players who can satisfy our fans by helping win the league championship.
“The most important thing we are thinking about now is the result of the game against Al Gharafa although we have to be at our best. We talked a lot to the players in order to help them get out of the psychological blow.”
Maaloul was asked to explain his decision not to start with star striker Youssef El Arabi in the match against Persepolis.
“Against Persepolis, we put our spearhead Yousef El Arabi on the bench because we had a plan in place and that succeeded in the first half when we pushed Almoez Ali against the Iranian team’s defence.
“Our plan surprised the rivals, but individual mistakes in the second half deprived us of success. I have a strong squad at my disposal and it will come good,” said Maaloul.
Al Gharafa, who lost to Umm Salal last week and are placed six in the standings, are desperate for a turnaround. Coach Christian Gourcuff said the team were still hurting from the defeat.
“We did not deserve to lose to Umm Salal in the last round in terms of performance. I have tried my best to prepare the team in a better way. We had better avoid the mistakes we committed against Umm Salal,” he said.
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