By FAWAD HUSSaIN
DOHA: Al Sadd fans and players will be edgy going into the new season, knowing that the next seven days will test the club’s resolve to win trophies in the next 10 months.
Al Sadd have been handed two major tasks to take care of within a week — their Sheikh Jassim Cup clash against Lekhwiya today and the AFC Champions League quarter-final leg against Saudi side Al Hilal on August 19.
The only Qatari club left in the AFC Champions League title race this year, Al Sadd are keen to fire on all cylinders when they face Al Hilal in the first leg of quarter-finals of the continental tournament next week.
The Sheikh Jassim Cup match may be of huge importance for Lekhwiya — as it is their first major match under a new coach, former Danish star Michael Laudrup — but Al Sadd seem more focused on their AFC challenge against Al Hilal six days from today.
At the pre-match press conference for today’s Sheikh Jassim Cup clash, Al Sadd coach Hussain Amute spoke more about the clash against their cross-border rivals than the test against Laudrup’s team.
“Our game against Al Hilal is more important for us,” the Morocco-based coach told reporters yesterday at Al Bidda Tower, the home of football in Qatar.
“This match (against Lekhwiya) is only five days before the all-important AFC quarter-final and we have to be careful. We are not going to risk our players. I hope we don’t face any injuries to our players,” Amute said.
Al Hilal are one of the Saudi regulars in the AFC competition and performed outstandingly in the pre-quarter-finals of the AFC.
They dominated the ‘Wolves’ — the 2011 Asian champions — earlier in the group stages as they handed them a five-star hammering following a hat-trick from Nassir Al Shamrani at the King Fahd International Stadium.
However, Amute was hopeful ahead of the crunch match saying the Sheikh Jassim Cup match will help his team assess their strength and weaknesses.
“We will have to play seriously and stay focused against Lekhwiya. We will play good football to get ready for the quarterfinal,” Amute said.
The ‘Wolves’ coach, meanwhile, termed the Sheikh Jassim Cup, a coveted event.
“We respect the Cup as this is one of the oldest running tournaments, with the first edition starting way back in 1970s,” Amute said.
Meanwhile, Al Sadd’s midfielder Mosaab Khoder said the team was raring to start the new season on a high note.
“We are looking to start
the season on a positive note by giving a good performance,” he said.
“We have made a lot of preparations for this season. The team will be up against in a big match against Al Hilal and we want to start this important week with a good display,” he added.