By Sports Reporter/Doha
Less than a week after being crowned Qatar’s league champions for the 14th time, Al Sadd will turn their focus to the continental stage when they take on Uzbek giants Pakhtakor in a Group D match of the AFC Champions League in Tashkent today.
Al Sadd thrashed Al Ahli 7-2 to wrap up the QNB Stars League title with one match to spare, but Pakhtakor are expected to provide a totally different challenge to the 2011 Asian Champions who will be playing in front of a hostile crowd in the Uzbek capital
The Wolves, who reached the semi-finals last year, are currently third in the standings in Group D, having opened their campaign with a 2-0 defeat against Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia before beating Iran’s Persepolis 1-0.
Pakhtakor top the standings with four points from two points, while Saudi’s Al Ahli are second on three points, above Al Sadd on goal difference. Iran’s Persepolis are at the bottom with just one point from their two games.
Al Sadd are on a high and that confidence should help them stand in good stead in Tashkent. The squad includes Meshaal Barsham, Pedro Miguel, Jung Woo-Young, Xavi Hernandez, Ali Asad, Hassan al-Haydous, Baghdad Bounedjah, Hamed Ismail, Tarek Salman, Boualem Khoukhi and Akram Afif.
“The league win is firmly behind us. We are now totally focused on our game against Pakhtakor,” Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira said at his pre-match press conference.
“Everybody knows Pakhtakor are one of the leading sides in the continent and we will have to be our best to beat them,” the Portuguese national added
First-choice goalkeeper Saad al-Dossari and left-back Abdulkarim Hassan, the best player in Asia, will be missing in action as they are recovering from injuries. However, the return of Xavi from an injury layoff adds strength to the side.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al Rayyan will look to make it back-to-back home wins when they host the United Arab Emirates’ Al Wahda today in Group B at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
Goals from Lucca and Gelmin Rivas helped the Qatari side come from behind to claim a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan’s PFC Lokomotiv on Matchday Two as they rebounded strongly from an opening-day defeat to Al Ittihad.
The hosts go into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw against Al Sailiya in the Qatar Stars League at the end of last week and they currently sit fourth in the standings.
Leonardo scored twice as Al Wahda secured an impressive 4-1 victory over Al Ittihad four weeks ago to ensure all four teams in Group B are on three points going into the third round of fixtures.
Like their opponents, Al Wahda also drew their last league game, with a 1-1 draw against Al Dhafra on Thursday leaving them sixth in the UAE Pro League.
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