Doha, 15 September 2020 - A confident Al Sadd take on Al Ain today in an Asian Champions League match with coach Xavi Hernandez clearly excited about the possibility of going one step further than the semi-final spot they had to contend with during the past two seasons.
With a finely-tuned team comprising a decent mix of dashing youngsters and battle-hardened seniors at his disposal, Spain and Barcelona legend Xavi was raring to make an early impact in the tournament.
Al Sadd head coach Xavi Hernandez expressed his confidence in his team, ahead of the upcoming Group D clash against Al Ain on Matchday 3 of the AFC Champions League 2020.
“We are very excited to start. Al Sadd is at the top of the group D. We have a lot of youngsters and experienced players as well. We are training well and we will forward to a strong start, in a competition that will be difficult for everyone,” said Xavi
“I’m happy with what the team’s performances at the start of this season. In the last two editions of the Champions League, we reached the semi-finals, and everyone is dreaming of reaching the final. We are now playing at our home and this is good for us.”
As for the game, the coach said: “As I mentioned earlier, we are in a good period, but the Champions League is completely different and we will face Al Ain, which is also a different team from last season. They have a good coach and a lot of good local and foreign players, but we are ready to compete.”
Xavi added: “I feel very good. I’m a positive guy. We are winners, and we have many players who won many titles, but it doesn’t mean anything. I know everyone is excited but we have to be calm, and go game by game, step by step.”
Star striker Akram Afif, new addition Santi Cazorla, who has already made a big impact in the QNB Stars League with his prowess in the midfield and a host of other dashers in the squad, Xavi has nothing to complain about.
“All the players are ready, and Akram is in good condition,” he said when asked about Afif’s fitness.” We are only missing Salem al-Hajri and Ali Asad, who need more time to recover from injury.”
Regarding the change in the tournament format, Xavi said: “The tournament’s new format is totally different. There will be a single knockout game after the group stage. We must be careful. Everybody must be ready and recover very fast.”
“We play every three days and it’s tough for the players. But it’s good for the competition and the fans.
“We cannot rest too much between games, it’s tough but fair for all teams. We must focus and avoid mistakes.”
Al Sadd defender Abdelkarim Hassan also spoke of his side’s readiness. “Our group is not easy, but Al Sadd is fully prepared and we hope to qualify as the group toppers. We’ll take every match separately, as they come.”
The Al Sadd star added: “We have benefited a lot from the resumption of the Qatari league and the early start to training, and this gives us more readiness than the rest of the teams.”
Abdelkarim promised the Al Sadd fans that the team will give their best, adding: “We aspire to be the best and hope for success from God. Certainly, we will miss the fans, but most importantly, the game will be played on the pitch and we are ready for it.”
The 2020 edition started in a difficult manner for Al Ain with a 4-0 defeat to Sepahan FC at home. Coach Pedro Emanuel’s men then slightly improved on that performance, but not enough as they lost to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr 2-1 on Matchday Two.
Al Sadd, on the other hand, needed an own goal from Al Nassr’s Abdulelah al-Amri to salvage a draw away from home on Matchday One, before going on to beat Sepahan by a 3-0 scoreline thanks to Akram Afif’s chip and captain Hassan al-Haydos’ brace in the second half.