Barca great Xavi expecting ‘tough game’ from Al-Ahli in knockout round of AFC Champions League

Barca great Xavi expecting ‘tough game’ from Al-Ahli in knockout round of AFC Champions League
Al-Ahli have had a while to prepare for the game with Al-Sadd. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2018

Barca great Xavi expecting ‘tough game’ from Al-Ahli in knockout round of AFC Champions League

Barca great Xavi expecting ‘tough game’ from Al-Ahli in knockout round of AFC Champions League
  • Al-Sadd and Al-Ahli to meet in last-16 clash in Doha
  • Al-Ahli play for the first time since coach Rebrov was fired

LONDON: Spain’s decorated midfielder Xavi Hernandez is wary of Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al-Ahli ahead of their AFC Champions League second-round clash with Al-Sadd on Monday.
The Qatari team, who were champions in 2011, take on the Jeddah giants on Monday in one of the ties of the round – and the former Barcelona star is looking forward to the first-leg clash against the sole survivors from the Kingdom.
“We know that this will be a tough game,” Xavi told Arab News. “Al-Ahli are a good team and Saudi Arabia is a strong football country but we are confident that if we work hard then we know can get past them and into the next round.”
The first leg is on Monday at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha while the second leg is a week later at King Abdullah Sports City. The tournament is divided into east and west geographical zones until the end of the competition in November.
“The important thing is that we perform to our best and work hard to ensure that Al Ahli can’t get into the game,” added Xavi who joined Al Sadd in 2015. “Whichever team makes it will deserve to do do so”
Al-Ahli finished top of Group A with four wins from six matches, but since they have suffered the agony of losing the Saudi Pro League title to Al-Hilal by a solitary point and also lost their coach, Fathi Al-Jabal replacing the fired Sergiy Rebrov.
“We are away in the first leg,” said Al Jabal in his press conference. “The important thing is to stay in touch and then we know that we can come back in the second leg. We know that we can do it. To be in the knockout stage is a great achievement. The most important point is however that we can compete against the best teams in the region.”
Elsewhere, Al-Jazira of the UAE host Iran’s Persepolis while Al-Ain, finalists in 2016, take on Al-Duhail of Qatar.
The eastern and western side of the draw takes place in September with teams from the two zones meeting only in the final in November.