Al Sailiya have a tough task on hand when they face reigning champions Al Sadd in the QNB Stars League at the Al Janoub Stadium today. The game, originally scheduled for 15th September, was postponed due to Al Sadd’s Asian Champions League second-leg quarterfinal against Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, which was played in Doha on 16th September.
And Al Sadd made it big by beating Al Nassr 3-1 to progress to the semifinals of Asian competition with a 4-3 aggregate score. The Qatari side had lost the first leg 1-2 in Riyadh on 26th August. Al Sadd will face Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the semi-finals, scheduled for October 1 (Doha) and October 22 (Riyadh).
Al Sadd are presently third with nine points. They are the only side with an all-win record and a victory today will also help them surpass Al Arabi and Al Gharafa and lead the table.
Coach Xavi Hernandez was not too pleased his side’s 2-1 win over Umm Salal but admitted it was bound to happen after their Champions League show. “I am very happy with this win. We played against a strong team. I am pleased with the result, but not the performance. It is natural for the players’ levels to drop after the Champions League game,” he said.
“Al Sadd have enough players who can play these games in the required manner. We have a tough game coming up against Al Sailiya. It won’t be any less difficult than the Umm Salal game. But I know that Sadd has the mentality to cope with these games,” Xavi added.
In contrast, Al Sailiya are ninth with four points. They defeated Qatar SC 1-0 last week, only through a goal scored in the penultimate minute of the match. For Sailiya, the game certainly means a lot, so it does for their coach Sami Trabelsi.
The Peregrines, who earned the third position last season, are going through a lean patch and could register their first victory only after three rounds. They started off with a 1-1 draw with Al Khor and then lost 0-3 to Al Ahli. Sailiya will be keen to again finish among the top four and cannot afford to drop points. They too have the players to deliver the goods and that should make the battle exciting.
Trabelsi admitted to a tough challenge his side will be upto. “Playing against a big club like Al Sadd isn’t easy. They’ve an outstanding striker in Baghdad Bounedjah and top-quality professional players. We know that we’ve a tough task on hand and we’re ready for it,” he said yesterday.
“We’ll push the players to perform to their potential against Al Sadd in order to come out with a positive result. We’re playing against Al Sadd and not against their big names. The confrontation is certainly difficult at the tactical level and we’ll try to contain their attackers. We’ll also try to translate our opportunities into goals. We’ve made great changes in our squad and the players need more time to gel well. We’re improving after every game,” added Trabelsi.
Al Sadd, who are third in the table with nine points, are the only side with an all-win record.