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DOHA: After losing their first match of the Asian Champions League (ACL), Al Gharafa’s coach Habib Sidek insists his team must pick up maximum points against Iran’s Sepahan to keep their qualifying hopes alive.
Sidek said the match will be difficult but hopes his team can put in a strong performance at home.
“We will have a difficult match against Sepahan who are a strong team and have big experience in the AFC Champions League,” the coach said in pre-match press conference yesterday.
“But we will be playing at home and in front of our fans and therefore we must win and get the three points,” added Sidek, whose side is third in Group C after a 2-0 loss against Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli a fortnight ago.
He explained: “We started preparing right after the end of our last match against Al Ahli. Sepahan are a good team with good capabilities and therefore we must be ready to face them as they know how to play their away matches and get good results.”
The Qatari club will be without their defender Hamad Shami who is out after suffering an ankle injury.
Sepahan, who are Iran’s most successful football club in the Asian Champions League, having reached the prestigious event for seven consecutive seasons will head into the Group C clash full of confidence.
Sepahan’s coach Zlatko Kranjcar, who arrived with his squad on Monday, said his team will be expecting a tough match against the Emir Cup champions.
Kranjcar said: “We are ready for the match although it will not be easy for us.”
“We are going through a good time at the moment and the players managed to perform well in our recent matches including the win against Al Nasr,” he added yesterday.
The Croatian coach is wary of Al Gharafa’s threats and said his team will be aiming for another win. “We are looking forward to getting another win tomorrow (today) as it will be good for our campaign. But despite their defeat in their first match, Al Gharafa also had a good performance and we must expect a hard match against them,” the coach said.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al Rayyan will also be aiming to register their first victory when they visit Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, in what will be the first time the sides have clashed.
In their previous match, Al Rayyan played out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Iran’s Esteghlal with Rodrigo Tabata playing an important role in the Group D clash. However, Tabata will miss today’s match after being ruled out for one month with an ankle injury suffered in the 2-1 defeat against Al Gharafa in the Qatar Stars League (QSL) last week.
Despite missing Tabata, Al Rayyan can count on Nilmar who has shined in QSL. The striker said Al Rayyan will be aiming for a win but is braced for a tough match away from home. He said: “This is an important game for both teams. Everyone knows what is at stake in these matches. “The match is very important for us because we want to win.”
He added: “That will be difficult because the opponent is strong and includes very good players.”THE PENINSULA