Al Sadd face Al Nassr in must-win home game
Qatar champions are down by a goal in the first leg, but a crucial away goal keeps their semifinal hopes alive.
Fight fire with fire, or tackle it with ice cool water – these are the options in front of Xavi Hernandez as the Al Sadd coach prepares for his team’s AFC Champions League quarterfinal second-leg contest against Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr on Monday.
Al Sadd came away scalded from the first leg in Riyadh, thanks to Al Nassr’s fiery, aggressive approach. The Qatari champions trail 1-2 and they need to win the second leg at their home, the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, to seal a spot in the semifinal.
Xavi, the man who epitomises the cool approach, was caught off-guard by Al Nassr when they came out all guns blazing in the first leg. The Spanish midfield legend, in his first coaching job, swears by calculated attacks through careful build-ups. But he was forced to adopt a more aggressive approach in the second half in Riyadh in an attempt to prevent a raging Al Nassr fire from engulfing his team.
Sadd went ahead by an Ali Asad goal against the run of play, but Al Nassr hit back through Abdulrahman Al Dosari and then forged ahead in the second half through Brazilian Giuliano. The second Al Nassr goal came when Sadd were bravely countering the rival attacks and Xavi’s men could not recover from the blow.
“We didn’t control the ball in the required manner, we didn’t have possession in the way we would’ve liked to. We created good moves in the second half, but their second goal spoilt our plans,” Xavi had said then.
The heartening factor for Sadd is the away goal they scored. Even a 1-0 win will take them through to the round of four. Al Nassr, aware of the fact, are bound to come out attacking and that should offer a stiff test to the Sadd defence which was almost always under pressure in Riyadh.
While their defensive fragility is a cause for concern, Sadd received some good news ahead of the game with one of their key midfielders, Nam Tae-Hee, recovering from a thigh injury and joining training. In Akram Afif, Hassan Al Haydos and Baghdad Bounedjah, Sadd have the talent to trouble the rival defence, but how they control the pace of play will be a crucial factor in deciding the semifinal place.
Brazilian Giuliano will be plotting the Al Nassr attacks and the visitors will be bolstered by the return of Abderrazak Hamdallah, their Moroccan striker who had missed the first leg due to an ankle injury. That is another headache for Sadd as they fight for a semifinal spot and higher honours in the continent.