Victory only option for Rayyan, Wahda
April 20 2021 12:12 AM
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Al Rayyan players train in Margao, India.
Al Rayyan players train in Margao, India.

AFC/India

United Arab Emirates’ Al Wahda and Al Rayyan of Qatar will both be searching for their first win when they meet in Group E of the AFC Champions League in Margao, India, on Tuesday.
Al Wahda will fancy their chances, having defeated Al Rayyan in four out of their five previous meetings in the AFC Champions League. Both teams, however, have not enjoyed the best of starts to their 2021 campaign and with just a point to show after two matches, neither can afford anything less than a win today.
Al Rayyan, who faced FC Goa in their Group E opener, were also left frustrated by the hosts in a 0-0 draw but worse was to follow against Persepolis on Saturday. The Qatar Stars League side took the lead against Persepolis in the first period but a second half collapse saw them conceding three times. Laurent Blanc’s side are now in a desperate position but the Frenchman has promised an improved performance against Al Wahda.
“We definitely played poorly in the second half against Persepolis and now we have to improve against Al Wahda,” said Blanc. “Tomorrow is another game and I hope my team play with intensity because we need to win, it is important to us and we’re ready to do that.”
“Matchday Three is the halfway point of the group stage and it’s very important for all the teams. If you perform well, you’ll be on your way but if you don’t then it will cause problems further down the road. My plan is always the same. It doesn’t matter who we play, Goa, Persepolis or Al Wahda, the most important thing is to score goals and that is our target. If we score one goal, we have to defend that lead so it is best to score more than one.”
Al Wahda started their 2021 campaign on a losing note after a lapse in concentration saw them lose 1-0 to Iran’s Persepolis. Henk ten Cate’s men showed promise against FC Goa in the early stages of their Matchday Two encounter but the Indian Premier League side stood firm to force a goalless draw. A win against Al Rayyan, however, will put Al Wahda’s AFC Champions League campaign back on track and ten Cate has urged his team to be fully focused.
“It has been really frustrating for us after two games,” lamented the 66-year-old Dutch tactician. “Like I mentioned before it’s hard on the players to perform their duties properly if they are fasting during the tournament
“Al Rayyan are a good side and the same thing can be said about us. It is going to be the two clubs fighting for second place in the standings. If you want to win games you must play on the offensive and I hope against Al Rayyan, we can achieve that.”

FC Goa relishing
Persepolis clash
Meanwhile, India’s FC Goa will be aiming to push the boundaries once again when they face Group E leaders Persepolis today. The two teams have never met before in the CAF Champions League. Persepolis are top of the table with six points after notching consecutive victories, while second placed FC Goa have kept two clean sheets in back-to-back goalless draws.
FC Goa impressed when they held Qatar’s Al Rayyan and the Indian Super League outfit continued their resilient form against UAE’s Al Wahda. Despite the lack of goals to show, FC Goa boast the best defensive record in Group E with none conceded with goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh making a total of nine saves across two matches.
However, head coach Juan Ferrando’s side can expect their toughest test yet against 2018 and 2020 finalists Persepolis.
“It is important to score goals,” said Ferrando. “But at the same time it is difficult. We are going to face a very tough team in Persepolis. We are taking things one step and one game at a time.
“Every game we’ve played in the AFC Champions League is important. For now, the most important game for me is tomorrow against Persepolis. The only way for us to improve as FC Goa is to play in this competition and face these tough opponents like Persepolis, Al Wahda and Al Rayyan.
“The exposure we get will help us develop further and Indian football as well.”      



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