12 Feb 2018 - 2:37
Qatar’s top teams battle for Asian supremacy
By Armstrong Vas / The Peninsula
Doha: QNB Stars League sides Al Duhail, Al Sadd, Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa are embarking on their 2018 AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign with great hope.
Al Duhail and Al Gharafa will play today, while Al Sadd and Al Rayyan will be in action tomorrow. All four teams have it in them to give their group rivals a good run for their money.
Al Duhail and Al Rayyan will play in Doha, whereas Al Sadd and Al Gharafa start the tournament with away matches.
Al Duhail are up against Iran’s Zob Ahan and Al Rayyan play host to Esteghlal, also of Iran.
Al Duhail coach Djamel Belmadi asserted that his players are ready for the challenge in the AFC champions League against Zob Ahan.
“This is our first match in the champions League with a team that we faced before two years ago and we lost, but now we have experience in this competition where we participate for the 7th time in it and we know that we will face a fierce opponent like all the other Iranian teams and we have to be ready in the required way,” said the Algerian tactician.
“We are not a complete team and every team have problems and have weakness points and also the Iranian team has weakness points, and the good team is the one which know how to deal with all the negative things and transform it to positive inside the stadium, and we have to score and take advantage of all the chances we have,” he added.
Team captain Youssef Msakni expressed his trust in his teammates and their ability to achieve good results in the competition.
“In our match against the Iranian team we are targeting full points, and I think the players are ready for this confrontation, and like Belmadi said we have many experiences in this confrontation and we will achieve the required result,” Msakni said at the press conference.
“The team’s results until now are good and reflects the big effort everyone is doing, and I hope the best for the team and to qualify to the second round, and also to be ready to participate with the national team in the upcoming period especially that we will participate in the World Cup,” added the Tunisian.
Elsewhere, Al Sadd will take on the UAE’s Al Wasl at the Zabeel stadium in Dubai. Al Gharafa’s outing is against Abu Dhabi side Al Jazira. They will face off at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in the UAE capital.
Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan qualified directly even as Al Gharafa reached the tournament proper by defeating Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in play-off in Doha on January 30. The Cheetahs will miss injured defender Almahdi Ali.
Al Gharafa will look to make a strong start and capitalise on it to qualify for the next round and on to the quarterfinals where they last reached in 2010. Al Ahli and Tractor Sazi are the other teams in Group A.
The Abu Dhabi club have failed to win a game in their past two continental campaigns - in 2016 and 2017 - with nine defeats and three draws a poor return from 12 games. Their last victory in the competition, back in 2014, was against Qatari opposition in the form of Al Rayyan.
Al Gharafa’s last appearance in the tournament came in 2013 when they reached the last 16, while their best performance was a quarter-final showing in 2010 in a campaign that saw home and away victories over Al Jazira in the group stage.
The Doha side have attracted plenty headlines ahead of this season’s competition with the arrival of Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, while the acquisition of Iranian frontman Mehdi Taremi could prove a masterstroke after his superb performance’s in Persepolis’s march to the semi-finals last year.