Al Sadd, Al Rayyan brace for ‘El Clasico’

 24 Oct 2017 - 0:00

Al Sadd, Al Rayyan brace for ‘El Clasico’
Barca legend Xavi Hernandez

By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula

Football giants Al Sadd take on arch-rivals Al Rayyan this Friday, knowing the traditional Qatar ‘El Clasico’ clash could be dominated by the stellar line-up available to popular coach Michael Laudrup.
Al Sadd, coached by Jesualdo Ferreira, are a notch above Al Rayyan in the QNB Stars League points standings with a tally of 15 after five matches.
Al Rayyan have 12 points with one loss, whereas Al Sadd are unbeaten this season.
Al Sadd captain and play-maker Xavi said he won’t be taking Laudrup-coached Al Rayyan lightly when the two teams clash at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.
“Al Rayyan bought well in the transfer window this season, adding quality professional and local players to their side. In attack, they’ve Rodrigo Tabata and Sebastain Soria, and have added more goals with Hamdallah, who is already scoring for them,” Xavi said in an interview yesterday.
“Defensively, they may have lost Victor Caceres, but they’ve added Mohammed Kasola and Abdul Maqsoud, two of the best defensive players in the league,” the Barca legend added.
The Wolves’ midfielder said ‘Qatar El Clasico’ was a platform of attacking football. “Both sides like to play strong attacking football and the match will be good to watch. Al Rayyan is one of the strongest teams in the QNB Stars League and I’m personally looking forward to the game. It’ll be a great Classico for everyone in Qatar,” Xavi said yesterday.
 “Matches against Al Rayyan are always important for Al Sadd. Last year, we played them in the Emir’s Cup final and we needed a last-minute winner. That’ll be our inspiration heading into the game and I hope we continue our strong start to the season,” the 37-year-old said.
“Barcelona against Real Madrid is considered as the ultimate clasico in Europe. Here in Qatar, our match with Al Rayyan is considered as the biggest and this is shown by the build-up in the country by the fans and media ahead of the match.
“The atmosphere is going to be special,” Xavi said.
Coach Laudrup, who saw Al Rayyan beat Al Sailiyah three days ago, has said his players could have scored more than the solitary strike by Abderazak Hamdallah (83, penalty). “I am was satisfied with the performance of players, but we did miss many serious opportunities in front of the goal,” Laudrup said after the clash last Friday.
“Al Sailiya wasted four chances but Al Rayyan missed even more chances,” he said. “I am satisfied with the result as the match was difficult. We could have lost the match as Al Sailiya attacked well,” Laudrup said.
When asked as to why Hamdallah was picked ahead of Tabata for penalty kick against Al Sailiya, Laudrup said: “Tabata is the first player to take the penalty. If we get a penalty for us in the next game, Tabata will take it.”
Meanwhile Al Sadd, currently a notch behind points leaders Al Duhail, hit the training pitch on Sunday following a day’s rest after Friday’s 3-1 win over Al Arabi in fifth round.
The club said key player Khoukhi Boualem underwent a medical examination after he suffered a calf muscle strain in the game against Al Arabi.
“Khoukhi is scheduled to undergo a further test at the Aspetar Sports Medicine Hospital, which will determine the extent of the injury and the time needed for recovery,” the club said yesterday in a post on its official website.