Thursday, 15 April 2021 04:29 GMT

Al Duhail face Wahda challenge in Abu Dhabi


(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Al Duhail will face a tough challenge from the UAE's Al Wahda when they clash in their AFC Champions League Group B fixture at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium here today.
Djamel Belmadi's Al Duhail have been in tremendous form this season, leading the QNB Stars League with an unbeaten run in 17 matches with Moroccan striker Youssef Msakni and their Tunisian captain Youssef Msakni topping the scoring charts.
They were off to a winning start in the continental tournament, rallying from a goal down to beat Iran's Zobahan 3-1 last week, with midfielder Karim Boudiaf scoring a brace and Msakni adding the third in Doha.
A second straight victory for the Qatari side would open up a six-point gap between themselves and Al Wahda and would put them in a strong position going into the double header with Lokomotiv in March.
Belmadi, however, was not thinking that far ahead.
'The tournament has just started and we are happy to have begun on a winning note. For sure we will like to win all of our matches and try to make the last 16 but we are thinking of one match at a time, the Algerian said yesterday.
'Our performance this season has been excellent and we would like to keep it that way, he added.
Al Duhail's line-up is the envy of other clubs in Qatar. Apart from the deadly duo of El Arabi and Msakni they also boast creative midfielders Nam-Tae-hee and Boudiaf, not to mention the young forward Almoez Ali, the leading scorer at the recent Asian U-23 Championship.
Al Wahda have been never beaten by a Qatari side, but last week they crashed to an ignominious 5-0 defeat against Uzbekistan's Lokomotiv Tashkent, sending their confidence tumbling.
It was the heaviest defeat they suffered at the Asian level, although they had some key players missing.
Against Al Duhail, though they will be at full strength, including Argentine forward Sebastian Tagliabue who also missed the previous match against Lokomotiv.
Their morale, however, has risen after they thrashed Al Ain 5-1 to qualify for the semi-finals of the Arabian Gulf Cup, which coach Laurentiu Reghecampf said will serve the team well.
'We lost the first match very badly and we are not at all happy with that. However, we are confident of bouncing back and I am looking forward to a positive match tomorrow, said Reghecampf.
He, however, added that Al Duhail would be tough to beat.
'We are aware that our opponents are a difficult team. They are leading the league in Qatar, scoring heavily in many games. It means they are a good team, but I have told my players to go ahead and do the job, added Reghecampf.
Meanwhile in Doha today, Al Gharafa will be looking to get points on the board when they welcome Iran's Tractorsazi Tabriz at the Thani bin Jassim Stadium.
New acquisitions Mehdi Taremi and Wesley Sneijder both got their names on the scoresheet on Matchday One, but their goals were not enough as Al Jazira claimed all three points in an entertaining encounter in Abu Dhabi.
Tractorsazi also got off to a losing start when 2017 quarter-finalists Al Ahli defeated them 1-0 in Oman as the Tabriz side's return to continental action after a one-year hiatus ended in disappointment. However, Tractorsazi have not been beaten in Qatar on two previous trips and, should they leave the Gulf state with their record unscathed, will be firmly back in the hunt for the two qualification spots.
'We have little choice but to win the match to keep our hopes alive, said Al Gharafa's Turkish coach Bulent Uygun.
'Against Al Jazira last week we made errors at crucial moments and ended up losing a close match. We can't afford to do that again, he added.
Meanwhile, Al Gharafa have asked their fans to turn up in large numbers to cheer the team. Many messages to this effect have been also put on social media.





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