By Sports Reporter Doha
Sparks are expected to fly when Al Sadd take on Saudi Arabian champions Al Nassr in the second leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-final today. The match starts at 6.45pm.
The Wolves are under pressure, having lost the first leg 2-1 but they have the advantage of scoring a vital away goal when they clashed in the first leg late last month in Riyadh.
But Al Sadd are brimming with confidence not just because they are playing at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, their home ground, but because they have none other than Xavi as their coach who is as ambitious as the players themselves.
The Spain and Barcelona legend once again made it clear yesterday that he is not in Qatar for a picnic but to win trophies for the club.
“My goal is to win the AFC Champions League,” he said. “I came to Qatar to win trophies with Al Sadd as a player and coach. I have talked to the players about the importance of winning, and I talked in particular with captain Hassan al-Haydos about our ability to win the Asian Champions League like what the national team did in the Asian Cup earlier this year,” said Xavi at his pre-match press conference.
“I have confidence in the players’ abilities and looking forward to this match and we hope to succeed in it and qualify for the semi-finals,” Xavi added.
Xavi, a World Cup winner for Spain, said he is pleased with his team’s performances in the QNB Stars League so far.
“We started the season well for I am very happy with the level that the team offers. We have prepared well for this confrontation with great ambition and we hope that we will be successful in achieving our goal, which is a victory against Al Nassr.”
He added: “There is pressure on everyone, but we are ready. We know Al Nassr have strong players like Abderrazak Hamdallah and Juliano, but we too have excellent players who have the skills and character to pull it off.” Al Sadd will be boosted by the return of star forward Akram Afif, who missed Qatar’s World and Asian Cup joint qualifier against India last week.
After failing to make it past the play-offs for two consecutive years, Al Sadd put on a solid performance in the 2018 AFC Champions League, going as far as the semi-finals before losing to eventual runners-up Persepolis. Al Sadd can also take confidence from their vastly superior history in the competition, compared to their visitors. The Qataris have reached the knock-out stages on five occasions and remain the last West Asian side to lift the trophy, back in 2011. Meanwhile, the quarter-finals are unmapped territory for Al Nassr.
While Al Sadd have history to count on, Al Nassr will be encouraged by their recent results. The Riyadh-based side only lost one of their four away games in the 2019 AFC Champions League. In the Round of 16, they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by UAE’s Al Wahda, but were then able to come away with a 3-2 win from Abu Dhabi.
A concern for Al Nassr, however, is the fact that Al Sadd have won each of their four home fixtures in the competition so far, defeating Persepolis, Pakhtakor and Al Ahli in the group stage, before brushing aside domestic rivals Al Duhail 3-1 in the Round of 16.
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