Qatari giants Al Sadd and Al Duhail begin their 2019 AFC Champions League campaign

0
341

Qatari giants Al Sadd and Al Duhail begin their 2019 AFC Champions League campaign today, with both sides facing tough opening matches. While Sadd are away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, Duhail host Iran’s Esteghlal.

Al Sadd reached Jeddah on Sunday for the Group D game and head coach Jesualdo Ferreira said he expected a tough encounter at the King Abdullah Sports City. The two sides met in the round of 16 last year, with Sadd winning at home before holding the home team in the return leg and advancing to the quarters.

Al Sadd were the last team from West Asia to win the AFC Champions League, when they lifted the trophy in 2011. Last year they reached the semi-finals before a narrow 2-1 aggregate defeat to Iran’s Persepolis.

The Doha side are enjoying a fabulous QNB Stars League season and, after defeating Qatar SC 8-1 last week, are four points clear at the top of the standings having won their past 10 league games.

Al Ahli, who were runners-up in 2012, are currently fifth in the Saudi Pro League and go into the match on the back of a 1-1 draw with city rivals Al Ittihad on Friday in a game that saw their star striker Omar Al Soma score an outstanding overhead kick.

Ferreira said it was important to start the Champions League on a winning note, but said it would be difficult to Al Ahli. “Starting well is very important in the Champions League but Al Ahli are a strong and excellent team.  Opening games are always tough but we are ready for it and we will play for the win,” the Portuguese manager said.

As for playing in front of a huge crowd, Ferreira said: “Al Sadd players are used to playing in front of big crowds and this won’t be a problem for them. They have the experience and capability to face this.”

Al Sadd will miss the services of their captain and midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez but Ferreira was optimistic other players will step in for the big match.

“Yes, we will miss Xavi as he is a star player but I am happy with the work of the current group. We look forward to his return as soon as possible so that he can be a great addition to the team in the upcoming matches, both at home and in Asia,” said

“Xavi is not just a star but an example for the team and the players. But in the last four years, we have tried to work as an organised group and not focus on one player. I am proud of all the players who have developed over the recent period, especially the young ones,” Ferreira added.

In case you missed it:   Qatar bans e-cigarette sales

Meanwhile, Duhail will be keen to make amends for last year’s disappointment. Duhail were one of the stories of the 2018 season as they went on a nine-game winning run to equal Ulsan Hyundai’s record set in 2012. But they exited at the last eight stage after Iranian side Persepolis dealt them a first defeat in the second leg of the quarter-finals.

The defending QNB Stars League champions currently sit second in their domestic league and go into their continental opener on the back of a 6-0 victory over Al Ahli last week.
Esteghlal, who will be without the suspended Roozbeh Cheshmi, also reached the quarter-finals in 2018 before elimination at the hands of another Qatari side, Al Sadd, and they return for a third year in a row after winning the 2017-18 Hazfi Cup.

The Tehran side have won three games in a row and are fourth in the Iran Pro League, with last week’s 3-1 victory over Foolad Khuzestan continuing their fine recent run of form.

Today, with both sides facing tough opening matches. While Sadd are away to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, Duhail host Iran’s Esteghlal.
Al Sadd reached Jeddah on Sunday for the Group D game and head coach Jesualdo Ferreira said he expected a tough encounter at the King Abdullah Sports City. The two sides met in the round of 16 last year, with Sadd winning at home before holding the home team in the return leg and advancing to the quarters.

Al Sadd were the last team from West Asia to win the AFC Champions League, when they lifted the trophy in 2011. Last year they reached the semi-finals before a narrow 2-1 aggregate defeat to Iran’s Persepolis.

The Doha side are enjoying a fabulous QNB Stars League season and, after defeating Qatar SC 8-1 last week, are four points clear at the top of the standings having won their past 10 league games.

Al Ahli, who were runners-up in 2012, are currently fifth in the Saudi Pro League and go into the match on the back of a 1-1 draw with city rivals Al Ittihad on Friday in a game that saw their star striker Omar Al Soma score an outstanding overhead kick.

In case you missed it:   Schengen visa fees to increase from Jan

Ferreira said it was important to start the Champions League on a winning note, but said it would be difficult to Al Ahli. “Starting well is very important in the Champions League but Al Ahli are a strong and excellent team.  Opening games are always tough but we are ready for it and we will play for the win,” the Portuguese manager said.

As for playing in front of a huge crowd, Ferreira said: “Al Sadd players are used to playing in front of big crowds and this won’t be a problem for them. They have the experience and capability to face this.”

Al Sadd will miss the services of their captain and midfield maestro Xavi Hernandez but Ferreira was optimistic other players will step in for the big match.

“Yes, we will miss Xavi as he is a star player but I am happy with the work of the current group. We look forward to his return as soon as possible so that he can be a great addition to the team in the upcoming matches, both at home and in Asia,” said

“Xavi is not just a star but an example for the team and the players. But in the last four years, we have tried to work as an organised group and not focus on one player. I am proud of all the players who have developed over the recent period, especially the young ones,” Ferreira added.

Meanwhile, Duhail will be keen to make amends for last year’s disappointment. Duhail were one of the stories of the 2018 season as they went on a nine-game winning run to equal Ulsan Hyundai’s record set in 2012. But they exited at the last eight stage after Iranian side Persepolis dealt them a first defeat in the second leg of the quarter-finals.

The defending QNB Stars League champions currently sit second in their domestic league and go into their continental opener on the back of a 6-0 victory over Al Ahli last week.
Esteghlal, who will be without the suspended Roozbeh Cheshmi, also reached the quarter-finals in 2018 before elimination at the hands of another Qatari side, Al Sadd, and they return for a third year in a row after winning the 2017-18 Hazfi Cup.

The Tehran side have won three games in a row and are fourth in the Iran Pro League, with last week’s 3-1 victory over Foolad Khuzestan continuing their fine recent run of form. Courtesy:GulfTimes