Iraq set to field weakened team in Saudi Arabia friendly

Juan Antonio Pizzi will take charge of Saudi Arabia for the first time next month against Iraq. (Reuters)
Updated 23 January 2018

Iraq set to field weakened team in Saudi Arabia friendly

LONDON: Saudi Arabia could face a severely weakened Iraq side next month, dealing a blow to Juan Antonio Pizzi's hopes of kicking off their World Cup program with a highly competitive match.
Pizzi and Saudi Arabia Football Federation President Adel Ezzet had deliberately picked Iraq as their first opponents as they play in a similar vein to Group A opponents Egypt and because the likely febrile atmosphere in Basra will test his players' mettle.
But Iraq coach Basim Qasim has said he will be without his key overseas players for the game on Feb. 27 because it falls out the FIFA International Match Calender, which sets out dates that can be used for official and friendly matches. Justin Meram, Brwa Nouri, Ahmed Yasin and Ali Adnan will all be unavailable for selection as they will not be released by their clubs.
Qasim will also not be able to select players from Air Force Club, Al-Zawraa and Al-Jawiya because they will be preparing for AFC Cup matches, meaning he will be selecting very much a second-string team, comprising of players from the Iraqi Premier League plus Ahmed Ibrahim and Saad Abdul-Amir from the Saudi Professional League.
"The match will have a negative impact on the level of the match, especially in the absence of majority of professional players, with the friendly played outside the FIFA match day, as well as the inability of players from the Air Force Club and Al-Zawraa to join up because of their commitment to the AFC Cup," Qasim said in an interview with IQ -PRO.NET.
"I will hold a meeting with the Iraqi FA during the next two days to talk more about the circumstances associated with facing Saudi Arabia, and the future of the national team."
The game next month will also further Iraq's attempts to lift the partial ban on them hosting international matches. Iraq have not hosted a competitive match on home soil since 2011 after FIFA expressed security and safety concerns. FIFA lifted a partial ban in 2013 but reapplied it soon after, following friendlies in Baghdad against Syria and Liberia. The ban was again partially lifted in the summer and Iraq has played three home matches since, against Jordan in Basra, Kenya in Basra and Syria in Karbala. The Iraq FA hope the ban will be lifted completely, allowing Iraq to play full internationals at home. The game against Saudi Arabia is, along with a four-team tournament in March with Qatar, Syria and Kuwait in Najaf and Karbala, part of Iraq's campaign to get the ban fully lifted and show they are capable of staging competitive matches in a safe environment.
"Without a doubt, everyone is looking to play against Saudi Arabia in several ways to strengthen efforts to lift the international ban on Iraqi football stadiums and I believe that the Football Federation had no other choice, especially after the Saudi Arabia’s FA stuck to the tie being played in February," Qasim said.

Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

Updated 18 February 2019

Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

  • Reds boss worried about resurgent German giants ahead of second-round first-leg clash.
  • Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich claims Liverpool are the favorites.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool side they will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Bayern Munich.
The Reds head into the Champions League clash as slight favorites after months at the top of the Premier League. But having drawn the German giants in the second round, Klopp has told his players they have to keep their feet on the ground worthy could end up out of the competition before it really gets going.
“It’ll be very tough,” there Liverpool manager said.
“(Bayern are) only two points off Dortmund in the domestic league and have been consistent finalists and semifinalists.
“They’re a world class team but at the same time we’re confident we can cause them problems.
“They’ve got world class players so we know how difficult it will be.
“Everyone has to be at 100 percent otherwise we’ll get nothing from the game.
“Having said that we have confidence we have the ability to hurt them, and it’s up to us to show that.”

After a tough start to the season Bayern are up to second in the Bundesliga. 

Liverpool went al the way to the final last year, before losing to Real Madrid. But the momentum created by that surprise run has been maintained in the Premier League and another trip to the Champions League knockout stages.
Bayern currently lie second in the Bundesliga and are starting to look like their old levels agains after a tough start to the season. For Klopp, who managed Dortmund before arriving at Anfield, that could spell trouble for the Reds.
“After six years of pretty much dominating the league it was clear this year was going to be a tougher situation.
“It’s actually still the same, being at the top of the league and still in the last-16 of the Champions League.
“It’s a normal situation with a high quality team.
“Munich’s situation, from my point of view, makes them even more dangerous and even more of a threat from my point of view.
“This is a competition, in Europe, where they always do well.”
For the Germans the role of underdogs suits them perfectly. At least that is according to Joshua Kimmich.
The defender said: “Liverpool are the favorites.
“They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.”
Before a ball has been kicked Bayern did receive some good news. Winger Franck Ribery was originally left out of the squad to play at Anfield and did not fly with his teammates. But after becoming a father, the Frenchman has now decided to join up with the squad and will be available for selection. One man who definitely will not make the pitch is Jerome Boateng. The central defender is suffering from a stomach virus.
The Bavarians will also have to wait until Tuesdays to determine whether winger Kingsley Coman will be able to play after picking up an ankle injury on Friday.
The Frenchman scored twice but was injured in the final stages of their 3-2 win at Augsburg.


Of Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio the Brazilian is perhaps the most underrated and important. When he plays well the Reds usually do likewise. He links up the play well, settling up as many goals as he scores. Liverpool will be hoping he turns up with his A-game tonight, because if he does Bayern Munich could be in for a  long night. 


For once Bayern are not having it all their own way in the Bundesliga. But they are improving and giving Borussia Dortmund something to think about in the race for the title. But home advantage will be key and a resurgent Reds will prove too strong for a Bayern defence that has, on occasions this campaign, looked less than watertight. The only question is can Liverpool get a decisive lead and put the tie to bed before the second leg?