Al Sadd take on Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, target semifinal slot
Xavi’s men may find the going tough against the hosts in a potentially explosive first-leg quarterfinal.
Qatar champions Al Sadd face a hard task when they take on Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia in the first-leg quarterfinal of the AFC Champions League at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh on Monday.
Sadd defeated fellow Qatar outfit Duhail Sports Club in the pre-quarterfinal, but in front of a likely hostile crowd, Xavi’s men can expect a serious examination of their skills and fitness.
Sadd are not short on confidence. They have lifted the Sheikh Jassim Cup, also defeating Duhail, apart from winning the opening match of the Qatar Stars League (QSL). And Xavi has stated his ambition is to go far in Asia.
“We’re targeting the semifinal, but Nassr is a tough team. It’ll be a hard-fought contest, a physical contest,” said Xavi, who had closely monitored the Saudi Arabian team’s victory over Al Wahda of the UAE in the round of 16.
Sadd did not have an easy opener in the QSL against Al Wakrah, even though they won 4-1. Xavi considered it as a good test ahead of the Nassr game.
“It’ll be an intense atmosphere in Saudi, we’ve to be prepared,” he had said.
Sadd will welcome back Baghdad Bounedjah, their main striker, after the Algerian had missed the previous two games due to suspension. South Korean Nam Tae-Hee’s absence will be a blow after the midfielder suffered a thigh-muscle injury that ruled him out for three weeks.
Akram Afif had also complained of a back pain, but he was included in the 20-man squad that travelled to Riyadh on Saturday via Kuwait on a specially chartered plane.
It will be the first time Nassr are playing in the AFC Champions League quarterfinal. But they displayed terrific intensity to edge out Wahda 4-3 on aggregate. Brazilian midfielder Giuliano is their key player, having scored five goals so far.
Sadd have a poor record in Saudi Arabia. They are yet to win a game there, having lost four and drawn five. Clearly, Sadd have to script a fresh chapter to come away unscathed.
The return leg will be played on September 16.