Al Sadd, Al Nassr set for cracker with Round of 16 in sight
April 28 2021 08:35 PM
Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez

AFC Riyadh

It will be winners take all when Al Sadd SC of Qatar and Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr clash in their final 2021 AFC Champions League Group D tie at the King Saud University Stadium on Thursday.

Al Sadd grabbed top spot from Al Nassr after the Qatar champions beat Foolad Khouzestan FC on Matchday Five to move up to 10 points, with the Saudi club missing out on vital points when they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Al Wehdat stay second two points adrift.

The onus will be on Al Nassr to secure full points while Al Sadd only need a draw to confirm their place in the Round of 16.

The two teams are no strangers to one another, having also been drawn together in the 2020 edition, but with only the group winners guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16, Al Nassr will be hoping to repeat their Matchday Two triumph, where they recorded a convincing 3-1 win over Al Sadd.

Al Nassr may have beaten Al Sadd the last time out but the Qatar champions have grown from strength to strength with each passing game, recording three consecutive wins to finish top of the table after Matchday Five.

Head coach Xavi Hernandez will hope that his charges keep up their fine performance, with the legendary Spaniard describing their 1-0 win against Foolad as their best display of football yet.

While a draw is all they need to confirm a seventh consecutive appearance in the knockout stage, there will be no doubt that Al Sadd will be out to avenge their earlier loss to Al Nassr and finish the group stage with a flourish.

"Like all the other matches, we have another final, we need to get the three points in the final match to stay first in the tournament," said Xavi.

"We are leading the group, but we can't relax, as we are going to play against a strong team who reached the semi-finals last year. But we are ready for the match. All the players are ready to play, as there are no injuries or suspensions in the squad.

"Both teams will play under pressure, as each team wants to get the result that gets them to the second round, but we will play for the win. We showed our real performance in the last match, and we want to repeat that against Al Nassr."

Mano Menezes' side recorded positive results in their back-to-back matches against Foolad, but their unbeaten streak came to an end when Al Wehdat stunned the Saudi side 2-1 to put their qualification hopes at risk.

"This is the final match for us, and it will be difficult for us, like the previous match against Al Sadd, and the importance of this match is more because it is decisive in determining who will qualify," expressed Menezes.

"We will try to play at the same level of the last match against Al Sadd, but we don't know how they will react, but we will play for the win.

"Our performances in the last five matches were affected by several factors, as we played against teams with different styles, and we were also affected by the fitness demands. We were also affected with the absence of many key players who can make the difference in the team."

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