By Sports Reporter/ Doha
Al Sadd head coach Xavi Hernandez reckons Al Wakrah can give his team a “difficult” time when they clash in the QNB Stars League Thursday.
Al Sadd trail leaders Al Duhail by a whopping 11 points (29 to 18) but they have played two matches less owing to their AFC Champions League commitments, Xavi’s side aiming to make a renewed push for the title in the new year.
“Happy new year to everyone! We will have a difficult game against Al Wakrah. We know we will face a very strong team. We suffered against them in the first phase. They have an excellent coach who knows his players very well, but we are fully prepared to get the win,” said the Spain and Barcelona legend.
He added: “I do not know whether (Cristian) Ceballos will return to play with Al Wakrah or not, but the rest of the players are of the highest calibre. On paper, we are the favourites. We are coming on the back of a big win over Al Gharafa in our best game of the season. But our performance on the pitch (tomorrow) is what will help us get a positive result.”
And on the readiness of his players for the match, the Al Sadd coach said: “All the players are ready for tomorrow’s game. Only the three Olympic team players are missing. Training has gone well and everyone is in working hard to get a spot in the starting eleven. I will work on choosing the best suitable lineup.”
As for his team’s transfer moves in January, Xavi pointed out that up to this point, he does not know anything about any new signings, and added: “I work only with the available players in the team. I am working with a strong team that can compete for all the titles. Our goal is always to win.”
Midfielder Nam Tae-hee said Al Sadd are well-prepared for the match.
Nam said: “We have been working very hard in training lately and we are fully prepared for this important game against Al Wakrah. Our goal is to get the three points.”
He added: “I am working as hard as possible for the team but I’m not satisfied with my performances until now. We want to win all the remaining games and I will work on performing better so that we can reach the level expected by our fans.”
Meanwhile, Al Wakrah coach Marquez Lopez was hoping to get the better of his rivals Thursday.
“Our team has undoubtedly improved from the time we played against Al Sadd in the first leg. We want to get a good result against our opponents, who are a great team. We’re looking to beat Al Sadd,” said Lopez.
“We lost important points against Al Arabi, Umm Salal and Al Rayyan. Our team had to be a little lucky. Had we not dropped those points, our position in the table would have been different. But this is football.
“Al Sadd have been playing many matches. It is a big team and we saw how they played against Al Gharafa and came back strongly. We miss some players because they are with the Qatar Olympic team. If we were playing against Al Sadd two weeks ago, the situation would have been different.”
In Thursday’s second match, Al Ahli will be taking on neighbours Al Arabi.
“It will be an exciting game from start till the end, regardless of the teams’ rankings. We are prepared to provide our best and achieve a positive result at the start of second leg of the competition,” said Al Ahli coach Nebojsa Jovovic
“This will be an important start for the team. I have felt a good atmosphere since my arrival here, a great understanding by the players with my philosophy. Now, we have started work and every day I notice an improvement in the team’s performance.”
Al Arabi coach Heimir Hallgrimsson meanwhile said that he was aiming for three points.
“It will be difficult because Al Ahli are playing under a new coach, who has a different style. He is experimenting with different ways in order to find the best possible combination.
“For us, we gain confidence after every game. I think we will win the next game and get three points.
“I would like to say that I don’t feel any difference because we are working on a long-term project and we look forward to be among the top teams. We have seen Al Sadd, Al Duhail and others, who have players that we cannot bring in, so we decided to work on developing the levels of our players. I think we have succeeded in that.”
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