Al Sadd clear favourites against Al Rayyan

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Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira wants to end his Qatar tenure on a triumphant note, by winning the Amir Cup. The experienced Portuguese manager had last month announced he would be leaving Qatar for good, having led Al Sadd to their first league title since the 2012-13 season. The match begins at 10.30pm.

Ahead of Sadd’s semi-final encounter against Al Rayyan today, Ferreira said he wants a winning farewell, providing an extra motivation to his players. “I am happy with what we have achieved in the Champions League, qualifying for the second stage at the end of my stint with the club. Now I want to win the Amir Cup before leaving Qatar,” said Ferreira at his pre-match press conference.

Having spent three and half years with Al Sadd, Ferreira was desperate for the league title and he finally delivered on that promise this season. Now they have a golden chance to secure a domestic double.

Sadd will rely on player of the season Akram Afif and prolific scorer Baghdad Bounedjah, with their midfield trio of Xavi Hernandez, Gabi Fernandez and Hassan al-Haydous being the best in the country.

Former Barcelona star Xavi too has announced his retirement and the midfield maestro would want to lay his hands on the prestigious Amir Cup trophy.
But it won’t be easy against Al Rayyan, who can be unpredictable and are keen to win a trophy themselves this season.

“It will be a very tough game for us. This is the fourth Amir Cup semi-final for me with Al Sadd and everyone knows how much this tournament means for the fans,” Ferreira said.

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“We have just one game remaining to reach the final. We cannot make mistakes because there is no time to make up for them. Our only goal is to win so that we can reach the final. My players deserve to win the trophy. They have been playing since last July, almost a game every three days for club and country but we are fully prepared for this tournament,” he added.

Al Sadd defender Pedro Miguel said the team was prepared for the semi-final encounter. “The match against Al Rayyan is very important for us. We are fully prepared for it. We will strive to win the game so that we can reach the final,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rayyan captain Rodrigo Tabata called on his team to give their all against the fancied Al Sadd team, while urging their passionate fans to fill the Al Sadd stadium .

“The fans will play a prominent role in our match against Sadd. It’s not an easy place to play and we need all the support we can get playing against a top team,” he said.

“We will do our utmost to win this match and qualify for the final at the Al Wakrah Stadium. We need to approach the game with collective spirit,” Tabata added.

Al Rayyan have been off colour since winning the league title in season in 2015/16 under Jorge Fossati. They finished fourth this season in the league and are already out of the AFC Champions League with one group match to spare.

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Al Rayyan coach Gilson de Souza emphasised how much the club is banking their season on the Amir Cup. “Our season was not good, so we have to look for some consolation and our main goal now is to win the Amir Cup,” De Souza said.

Rayyan have lost both their meetings against Al Sadd this season. A 5-0 drubbing in September, followed by another 4-0 humbling in September, makes Sadd an overwhelming favourites to reach the Amir Cup final. The other semi-final pits Al Duhail and Al Sailiya, which will be played tomorrow.Courtesy:GulfTimes