Fancied Sadd wary of Rayyan in Qatar Clasico
September 22 2021 12:50 AM
Al Rayyan coach Laurent Blanc talks to his players during a training session yesterday.
Al Rayyan coach Laurent Blanc talks to his players during a training session yesterday.

By Sports Reporter/ Doha

The much-anticipated QNB Stars League clash between reigning champions Al Sadd and Al Rayyan – billed as Qatar Clasico – will be played today at the Khalifa International Stadium today. Expectedly, Al Sadd have won both their encounters in the new season and will start as obvious favourites against Al Rayyan, who have played out draws in their first two matches.
However, Sadd coach and former Barcelona star midfielder Xavi Hernandez is wary of Rayyan, who are capable of summoning their best quality in a key encounter. “It’s a Qatar Clasico where both teams have equal chances. Al Rayyan are a strong side under a great coach. It is going to be a tough challenge,” Xavi said yesterday.
“Our task is very difficult because we face Al Rayyan while missing many players. We know that we are the favourites to win and we must show that on the pitch. We will try to do our best, of course, and win the three points,” he added.
The Spaniard revealed Sadd will miss Santi Cazorla, Saad al-Dossari, Abdelkarim Hassan and Pedro Miguel due to injuries for the Rayyan clash. But he optimistic his side can pull off victory. “We will miss many players but the target is to win three points by giving our best,” said Xavi.
Al Rayyan coach Laurent Blanc said his team has a hunger to beat Al Sadd, a task in which they failed in the previous season. “We work every day in the training and we have had good preparations for this match. The players know Al Sadd’s capabilities and we have great motivation to do well against them,” the French coach said.
“We are very interested to win this match as we know that it will be a good preparation for the Amir Cup final,” Blanc said while referring to the October 22 Amir Cup final to be played at the brand new Al Thumama Stadium – a World Cup Qatar 2022 venue.  However, the Frenchman stressed his side needs to bring major improvement from their first two games. “Al Rayyan did not play well in the first two matches. We did not give hundred per cent, but we have to have the hunger to win. The team must give everything it has in the Al Sadd match in order to win,” said Blanc.
Meanwhile, table-toppers Al Duhail and Al Gharafa will also face off today. Duhail are top of the table thanks to a better goal difference than Al Sadd. Gharafa too have been impressive so far, winning both their matches and are are third in the standings.
Al Duhail coach Luis Castro said: “The players are confident of getting their third win in a row. We do not look at the results of other teams. We respect our opponents and prepare for matches looking at their strengths and weaknesses.”
Meanwhile, Al Gharafa coach Andrea Stramaccioni termed the match a test for his side. “We need such matches to develop and gain more maturity to know the margin of progress in player development,” he said. “Al Gharafa are an old club with many achievements. I know this team will play with its head held high and with a positive thinking. This type of match is what I want to use to evaluate my team, regardless of the outcome,” he added.
Today’s third match will pit Al Khor and Al Wakrah at Al Khor Stadium.

Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez attends a press conference yesterday.

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