Al Sadd have their task cut out in Sheikh Jassim Cup final
Duhail will be keen to avenge their defeat in the AFC Champions League.
Act three of a compelling Qatari rivalry will be played out on Saturday when Al Sadd take on Duhail SC for the Sheikh Jassim Cup.
It might be the traditional season-opener, but the teams have already met two times on the continental platform in the last 10 days. After two legs of the Asian Champions League, it is Al Sadd who hold the bragging rights.
Not only did they seal a quarterfinal berth in the Champions League with an aggregate 4-2 win, but it also helped them secure a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup to be held in Qatar in December as the host country representative.
Sadd will bring that confidence to the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Saturday, but it would be foolhardy to believe they just have to turn up to win the trophy.
Over the last two matches, Duhail gave enough signs that they will not be mere pushovers. The margin of Sadd’s win was not a true indicator of the difference between the teams and the reigning Emir Cup champions certainly will not give any leeway to the QSL champions.
Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez is aware of that.
“It’ll be a difficult game, as they would want to exact revenge,” said Xavi, eyeing his first title as coach. “If we don’t give our 100 per cent, we won’t able to win titles. We were able to do that in the Champions League. So we need to give our best to win this title.”
Xavi’ task will be made difficult by the fact that he will be without three players – Baghdad Bounedjah, Hamed Ismaeil and Tarek Salman – who were suspended after last season’s Emir Cup final which Sadd lost to Duhail. Their absence weakens the team and Xavi stressed on the need to be mentally focused in such a scenario.
“We want to dominate the game, we need to keep going and forget the previous results,” he said.
The presence of Hasan Al Haydos will be the key for Xavi in such a scenario. The midfielder was behind almost every Sadd attack in the previous game and if the South Korean Nam Tae-Hee can raise the level of his game by a notch or two, the Wolves will be well served. Bounedjah’s energy will be missed up front, but the Algerian’s absence gives Akram Afif additional responsibility to thrive on.
After the Champions League defeat, Duhail coach Rui Faria bravely proclaimed his side to be better than Sadd. The Portuguese brushed aside talks of a revenge, but his team gets a chance to prove his words right on Saturday.
“I don’t believe in revenge in football, but my players are hurt after the Champions League defeat and they will do their best on Saturday – not because of the loss, but because they want to compete,” he said.
Duhail will be without striker Almoez Ali, also due to suspension, but in Youssef Msakni and Ali Afif, they have potent threats to exploit any lapses in the Sadd defence. Besides, they will also have that extra motivation to score a point before the QSL gets rolling on August 21.
“The most important thing is the focus, along with ambition and determination,” said Faria. “It’s 11 against 11 and we’ll do our best to achieve our objective.”