By Sports Reporter
Defending champions Al Sadd will start as hot favourites when they take on Al Rayyan in the prestigious HH the Amir Cup final today. With the magnificent Al Thumama stadium as the venue, which will be inaugurated by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as the backdrop for the title clash there will be no shortage of motivation for both the teams.
The match, which will kick off at 7pm, is a sold out affair with 100% attendance allowed at the 40,000 capacity Al Thumama – the sixth venue constructed for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Sadd have been at their dominant best in the last two years. Xavi Hernandez’s men won the QNB Stars League unbeaten last season before capping it off with a memorable Amir Cup triumph. They have started from where they left off last season, having won all their six league matches in the league.
Sadd also hold an enviable record of having won the Amir Cup 17 times in 26 final appearances – the most by any club.
Rayyan, meanwhile, have won the Amir Cup six times in 17 finals attempts, with their last triumph coming in 2013. The last time these two teams played each other in the final was in 2017, with Sadd winning 2-1.
Xavi’s Sadd at times have been shaky in the defence, but are ruthless in front of goals with Baghdad Bounedjah, Santi Cazorla and Akram Afif leading the attack.
They have so far scored 26 goals in just six matches this season, which will be a major concern for Al Rayyan, who are struggling in defence. Rayyan have won only one league match this season in six attempts with Laurent Blanc’s men leaking goals, while their forward line also has not been able to find the net often. The arrival of Colombian star James Rodriguez from Premier League side Everton looked to raise their spirits. But the midfielder was sidelined with a muscle injury and only made his debut last week, where Rayyan were thrashed by Duhail 0-3.
Despite the heavy favourites tag, Sadd’s head coach Xavi emphasised the difficulty of the clash. Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Xavi said: “A difficult and complicated match awaits us, contrary to what some think. We are excited to play the match. We have gone through a long period to reach this final. We are very happy to be at Al Thumama Stadium.
The Spaniard added: “Our match with Al Rayyan is the Clasico of Qatari football and we have complete respect for Al Rayyan. It is a good team that has a good coach with great experience in Europe, and they have excellent players like James and Nzonzi.”
Xavi, the former Barcelona midfield maestro, said his team will look to go all out in attack in the final, a style of play which has brought the Wolves a huge success. “We will not change our style of play. We need to attack, control and win,” he said.
The Sadd coach said their dominance in the QNB Stars League will count for little on a big occasion like the Amir Cup. “We have to control the details, whether in attack or defence. All details are important. We cannot make mistakes. We will fight and strive to win. We must have determination, and a great desire to win. This is the Al Sadd that we want.”
Meanwhile, Rayyan coach Blanc was hopeful of causing an upset. “The beginning of the season has not been good for us but we have had some circumstances. It is not an excuse but a reality,” said the Frenchman yesterday.
“We have had three new players, Ahmed Yasser, James Rodriguez and Nzonzi arrive very late. They haven’t played a game in two months, so we need time. I know time in football is very short but we need time to be better. I hope tomorrow we can play better than the first game which we lost. I am sure the players are ready for tomorrow. Al Sadd is a good team, I have said that and all the other coaches say that. But hopefully we are ready to fight with Al Sadd to win this game,” he added.
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