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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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It’s advantage Al Sadd as they target quarterfinal spot

Holding an away-goal advantage, Xavi Hernandez's men take on Al Duhail in second leg of AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
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Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez (left) and Al Duhail coach Rui Faria have plenty at stake in the AFC Champions League round of 16 clash on Tuesday. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

In the familiar environs of the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, hosts Al Sadd will look to drive home the advantage when they take on Al Duhail in the second leg of the AFC Champions League round of 16 match on Tuesday.

The teams drew 1-1 in the first leg last week in Duhail’s home game at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah. Having scored an away goal, Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd have the upper hand ahead of the second leg.

“My only disappointment was we didn’t win,” Xavi had said after the first leg match when they were denied a penalty during injury time. He repeated that thought on Monday and asserted his players were ready to bear the pressure of the knock-out game.

Akram Afif struck the first goal for Sadd before Youssef Msakni found the equaliser for Duhail just before half-time in the first leg. A scrappy second half produced no goals, but the result could have been different had the referee awarded a penalty to Sadd during the final moments.

Duhail, though on the backfoot, displayed a brave front after the game, with their coach Rui Faria stating firmly that his players had the wherewithal to come through victorious in the second leg.

The teams were understandably rusty in the first leg, but a better contest could be expected on Tuesday in a do-or-die situation.

The winner will take on Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia in the quarterfinal. Al Nassr defeated the UAE’s Al Wahda, winning the second leg 3-2 on Monday after the first leg ended 1-1.

“We might have the advantage from the last match, but it doesn’t change anything. Our objective is to keep possession, dominate the game and try to win it. We’re ready to do it, but you never know in football.” Xavi Hernandez

Xavi certainly would look to get more goals from his forwards, especially Baghdad Bounadjah, the man who netted 39 goals last season in the Qatar Stars League. The Algerian, who struck the match-winner in the African Nations Cup final against Senegal recently, needs to grab his chances to peg Duhail firmly back.

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Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

Xavi insisted he was looking for an all-round improvement.

“We’ve to improve in defence and set-pieces. I’m looking for an overall improvement,” said the former Spanish champion.

“We might have the advantage from the last match, but it doesn’t change anything. Our objective is to keep possession, dominate the game and try to win it. We’re ready to do it, but you never know in football,” he added.

Faria, aware of the difficulties in front of him, was confident his men would do what was required of them.

“We expect a tough, but good match. We’re prepared for a difficult game, but we will do everything to win,” said the Portuguese.

Duhail will be without defender Mehdi Benatia who underwent a surgery in Paris after injuring his knee in the first leg. Bassim Al Rawi had stepped in and did a good job, and Faria will be falling back on the Qatari international to do a repeat act to keep the Sadd strikers at bay.

At home, Sadd will have the fans behind them but on the pitch, whoever deals better with the pressure of the knockout game will be the winner. Sadd might hold the edge but Duhail cannot be counted out, for it’s football and as Xavi said, anything can happen in football.

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Al Duhail coach Rui Faria and his defender Luiz Martin have a word during a practice session. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran