With Round of 16 qualification already secured, Al Sadd SC hope to end their 2020 AFC Champions League group stage at the summit of Group C when they take on already-eliminated Sepahan FC today.
Baghdad Bounedjah’s 87th minute equaliser against Al Nassr on Monday ensured Al Sadd remain one of three sides yet to lose a match in the West Asia groups of the competition, and should they get the three points against Sepahan while Al Nassr fail to beat Al Ain, they would leapfrog them to top spot in the group and head coach Xavi is unfazed by the challenge.
“We have to win, we want to finish the group stage well and win this group,” said the Spaniard.
“We are up against a very good team, who are well organised and know how to defend and attack. We are in a tough group and all three opponents are very strong.
“Last season we played against Al Duhail in the Round of 16 and we won, but let’s see what happens. Whether it is Al Duhail, Sharjah, Al Taawoun or Persepolis, all the teams are tough. We are playing against the best in the competition in the Round of 16, so let’s win this one and see.”
The last time the two sides met, Al Sadd brushed their opponents aside 3-0 on Matchday Two at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, with Hassan al-Haydos scoring a six-minute brace after Akram Afif had opened the scoring.
Sepahan’s only win in the competition came in the opening game of the tournament with a 4-0 thumping of Al Ain, but early optimism quickly petered out with a draw and three losses following, meaning the Iranians’ hopes had evaporated by the end of Matchday Five.
“We have a very important and hard game against Al Sadd who are a strong team and have invested well, which makes them one of the contenders to go far in the competition,” said Sepahan boss Mojtaba Toutouni.
“This is the AFC Champions League, and every game is important to all players and teams. Getting the three points is always important for us. We have the motivation to defend the name of our club, our city and our country, while our domestic league starts soon so we need to prepare the players for the upcoming season.
Sepahan are without a goal in the competition in 372 minutes, with Mohammad Tayyebi’s 78th minute strike against Al Ain on the opening matchday their last sight of goal to date, but Toutouni said hard work is the only way to end the drought.
“We create a lot of chances, but our problem is in the final touch and finishing. It can be resolved but we need to train more and work on improving this aspect of our game.”
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