Xavi’s men ready to counter Al Nassr’s aggressive intent
Al Sadd captain Hassan Al Haydos keen to convert ‘home pressure’ into advantage.
It is a big match for Al Sadd with an AFC Champions League semifinal berth at stake. But they have a formidable opponent in Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr Club, who enjoy a 2-1 first-leg advantage.
Coach Xavi Hernandez is well aware of what his side will be up against in the second leg of the quarterfinal at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
“We know they’ll be aggressive. We know they’ll come hard at us. But we’re prepared for that. We’ve to ensure that we control the game,” said Xavi.
“They’re very strong physically. But we need to have the personality to play such type of games and play against such players,” he added.
The Al Sadd coach seemed to have infused his players with plenty of optimism right through the season.
“Our goal is to win the AFC Champions League. I wanted to do that as a player, I want to do that as a coach. I constantly tell my players that. They’ve all the qualities to achieve it as well. In fact my role is more of a guide. The players have the maturity and the experience to take their own decisions on the field and have done that really well in our matches,” said Xavi.
What will boost Al Sadd is the presence of Korean Nam Tae-Hee.
“He will be on the starting list,” said the coach.
The Korean had sustained an injury during the Sheikh Jassim Cup and missed the first leg of the quarterfinal.
Akram Afif who missed Qatar’s World Cup/Asia Cup qualifying match against India last week will also be in the starting 11.
There were unconfirmed reports that he was nursing an injury while a section of the local media speculated that he had some differences with national coach Felix Sanchez.
However, Xavi said Afif would start against Al Nassr.
“Afif is a professional. He doesn’t allow what happens with the national team to affect his performance with the club. He will start tomorrow,” the coach said.
Al Sadd captain Hassan Al Haydos underplayed the pressure of playing in front of the home crowd. He said his team knew how to handle the situation.
“Pressure can be very positive. I know there’re expectations. But we’re counting on the support of the fans. Of course, we did lose the last match, but it was not by a huge margin. We’re very optimistic about this match,” he said.
Al Nassr coach Rui Vitoria had a different take on the pressure situation.
“We’ve played many matches outside the country and I’ve seen the home teams unable to play under the pressure of expectations. We’ll take advantage of that if it happens,” said Vitoria.
He is well aware of the damage a 0-1 result can do for his side. As such he is planning to attack the Sadd goal from the start.
“We’ll go all out to score as many goals as possible. We’re coming here on the back of a good result in our previous match and it’ll spur us to do well,” he added.
Al Nassr’s hopes got a boost with the return of their injured forward Abderrazak Hamdallah. The Moroccan was the highest scorer with 34 goals in last season’s Saudi Pro League.