No room for error for Xavi’s Al Sadd against Al Wehdat
April 20 2021 12:08 AM
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Al Sadd’s Santi Cazorla (left) and Baghdad Bounedjah train ahead of their AFC Champions League match against Al Wehdat.

AFC/Riyadh

Qatar’s Al Sadd SC and Al Wehdat of Jordan will be vying for their first win in Group D of the AFC Champions League when they clash at the King Fahd International Stadium on Tuesday. Both teams have just one point to their names after two matches, and victory is a must in their bid to advance to the Round of 16, with only the group winners assured of a place.
Al Sadd came into the AFC Champions League having won the Qatar Stars League unbeaten but have struggled in Group D, having had to claw back to salvage a 1-1 draw with Foolad Khouzestan, before suffering a 3-1 defeat to Al Nassr on Saturday.
While Al Sadd have proven that they have no issues in creating goal opportunities, head coach Xavi will remind his players they have to be more clinical upfront and resolute in defence, with Al Nassr having punished them with speedy counter-attacks when the score was 1-1.
“Now we have a chance to get the first win and get three points, but we will be facing a difficult team, who are strong in defence and have good physical abilities,” said Xavi. “We have to score in this match, we must attack and defend better than the first two matches in order to get the three points. We didn’t play badly in the first two matches, but we were not perfect, and the results were not in our favour, so we will have to play better and attack more. We must also stay focused, as making mistakes at this level means you will concede and lose.”
“We’ve analysed Al Wehdat and we’ve seen that they are good in defence and transition well into attack. They are organised and it is difficult to score against them, but we have to be ready for the match and create chances to score. There is nothing guaranteed in the group, and we can’t predict who will qualify, as all four teams still have a chance to qualify, so we will only focus on our next match against Al Wehdat.”
Al Wehdat, in their maiden AFC Champions League group stage campaign, have opted for a defensive approach thus far and it worked against Al Nassr, with the Jordanian side walking away with a 0-0 draw. Had it not been for Chimba converting a penalty for Foolad Khouzestan FC on Saturday, Al Wehdat may have well earned another point.
However, Al Wehdat need goals if they are to enjoy a prolonged stay in the AFC Champions League and a defensive approach may no longer work at this stage of the tournament and head coach Abdullah Abu Zema may have to rethink his plans.
“The match against Al Sadd will be very difficult, specially when the two teams are in a similar situation, with one point after the first two matches,” said Abu Zema. “But the pressure will be more on Al Sadd, who are not only favourites to qualify from the group, but also to win the title. Al Sadd are a big team and they are capable of going through any pressure, but we are also a very good team and we can stop Al Sadd.”
“I trust my players, they have the abilities and the experience, with many of them playing in the national team, and they can deliver what we want from them. Football is not only about defence or attack, it’s about both, we have a very good defensive structure, but we need to make better use of our chances. We are an attacking team, but we changed our style a week before we came here, so we need some time to adapt and perfect our attacking formation. You need to be realistic when playing in the AFC Champions League, which depends on small details.”

Top spot at stake for Foolad Khouzestan, Al Nassr
The battle for top spot in Group D is set to take a key turn when Foolad Khouzestan FC and Al Nassr lock horns today. Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr will be a weakened side after it was confirmed yesterday that five players were among several members of the squad to have tested positive for Covid-19.
The two teams are tied on four points with Al Nassr leading on goal difference but with only the group winners assured of advancing to the Round of 16, neither will give an inch at the King Saud University Stadium.
Al Nassr dominated against Jordan’s Al Wehdat but had to settle for a 0-0 draw. They, however, displayed the form that took them to the semi-finals last year in the 3-1 win over Al Sadd on Saturday.
Head coach Mano Menezes, who took charge of the team for the first time in the win against Al Sadd, now has the task of motivating his players to deliver despite the Covid-19 outbreak with the Brazilian saying he would have to reshuffle his team.
Foolad, who are making their first appearance in the AFC Champions League since 2015, were denied a famous win over Al Sadd in their group opener after the 2011 champions salvaged a last gasp 1-1 draw, but the Iran side made no mistakes in their 1-0 win over Al Wehdat.
They will be asked to prove their worth once more against Al Nassr next but Foolad will be up to the task as three points will place head coach Jesus Javier Noble’s men in pole position in the race to finish as the group winners.      



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