Riyadh, 14 April 2021 - Al Sadd SC of Qatar and Islamic Republic of Iran's Foolad Khouzestan FC will be looking to secure an early advantage when the two clash in Group D of the 2021 AFC Champions League on Wednesday.
Al Sadd, coming off a dominant domestic season which saw them lift the Qatar Stars League title unbeaten, will be aiming to maintain that form as they look to add to the AFC Champions League title won in 2011.
Foolad will be heading into the match with full confidence after their emphatic 4-0 win over UAE's Al Ain FC in the playoff just three days ago to qualify for the group stage for the fourth time in their history.
Foolad's last appearance in the Continental tournament was back in 2015, where they missed out on progressing to the knockout stage after finishing third in their group, with a 1-0 defeat to Al Sadd proving costly.
Much, however, has changed with head coach Jesus Javier Noble at the helm, with former Iran international Javad Nekounam as his assistant.
"We are really happy to be here in the Group Stage," said Spaniard Noble. "We are really motivated to compete in the tournament, and we are confident we can do a good job."
Noble's compatriot Xavi will be leading Al Sadd in the tournament for the third consecutive year, the Qatar champions eager to make up for last year's Round of 16 exit.
"We are in a difficult group, but we are ready to compete and excited to be here," said Xavi.
"We have in front of us an Iranian club, Foolad, who have a good coach and players. They did really well in the playoff against Al Ain."
The 2021 edition will see a record 40 clubs participating, which means only the group winners and three best runners-up from each region will advance to the Round of 16, and Xavi is looking for Al Sadd to secure as many points as they can.
"We need to get points from the very beginning. We need to win and not get a draw. We are Al Sadd, we are a winning team and this is our mentality from the beginning. We have to show our best level and attack, this is my philosophy.
"More so because even with 12 points, we can still be out of the competition. Our target is the first position in the group."