By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Sadd will aim to go top of Group D when they take on Uzbek giants Pakhtakor in the AFC Champions League at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha today.
Earlier this month, both teams played out a 2-2 draw in Tashkent, but despite snatching a crucial away point, Al Sadd were left ruing missing a golden opportunity to further consolidate their chances of qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament.
They led twice in the first 16 minutes of play, with both goals coming from Xavi.
However, Pakhtakor fought back to level the scores on both occasions and top Group D with five points from three matches.
“It’s true that we should not have allowed Pakhtakor to get back into the match after taking the lead twice but we can’t dwell on it now. We have to look ahead,” said Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira at yesterday’s press conference.
“We need to be at our best to beat them but we are confident playing at our home ground,” the Portuguese veteran added.
A win against Al Sadd can take Pakhtakor a step closer to qualifying to the AFC Champions League knock-out stage for the first time in nine years, while three points for the Qataris can put them on track to reaching the Round of 16 for the fourth time in the past six years.
Domestically, both teams are top of their leagues, albeit at contrasting ends of the season. Al Sadd have already secured the QNB Stars League title with a game to spare, while Pakhtakor remain unbeaten with 13 points from their first five games of the Uzbek Super League.
The two sides met in the 2011 AFC Champions League group stage, with Al Sadd winning 2-1 in Doha and the two sides playing out a 1-1 draw in Tashkent. The Qatari side went on to lift the title that year.
Al Sadd, who have four points, will be missing forward Akram Afif due to suspension.
At their training session yesterday, Ferreira focused on correcting errors in the players’ movement and penetration from deep and the wings, intervening on multiple occasions during the practice ‘mini games’.
Before the start of the session, the coach had met with the players to speak with them about the objectives from the game.
Meanwhile in Abu Dhabi, Al Rayyan will aim to grab a win against UAE’s Al Wahda in Group B.
Al Rayyan have been in mixed form, appearing off the pace in their 5-1 Matchday One defeat to Al Ittihad, then overcoming Lokomotiv 2-1, before losing again against their Al Wahda
Al Wahda recovered from a 2-0 defeat to PFC Lokomotiv on the opening matchday to go on and win their two subsequent games. A 4-1 hammering of Al Ittihad was followed by a hard-fought 2-1 win against Al Rayyan in Doha.
Standing out for Al Wahda has been Brazilian winger Leonardo, who netted three goals in as
Both sides will be focused on continental football, having slipped off the title race in their respective domestic leagues.
Al Wahda are fifth in the UAE Pro League while Al Rayyan finished fourth in the Qatar Stars League.
In another match, Persepolis of Iran will take on Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia.
Persepolis were 2-0 winners when the teams clashed two weeks ago.
Al Ahli come into the match with a new boss at the helm after Uruguayan manager Jorge Fossati was dismissed less than three months after being appointed.
Youssef Anbar, the new coach, started his reign with a 3-2 win over Al Wehda in the Saudi Pro League and will hope his continental debut is equally positive.
Persepolis, on the other side, hope their slow start to the AFC Champions League campaign is behind them, having recovered from collecting one point in their first two games with the win over Al Ahli on Matchday Three.
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