Xavi, Lucescu braced for tough encounter
Doha: Al Sadd SC and Al Hilal SFC expect a no-holds-barred contest when they face off in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
Describing Al Hilal as one of the strongest teams in the region, head coach Xavi said Al Sadd have prepared thoroughly for the challenge the Saudi Arabia club will pose.
Al Hilal counterpart Răzvan Lucescu said it will be a meeting between two teams of high quality.
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“It’s going to be a tough match but we are well prepared. Everyone knows Al Hilal are one of the strongest teams in the region, but we have confidence in our abilities,” Xavi said.
Al Sadd, said the Spain and Barcelona legend, are driven by the desire to overcome last year's heartbreak when the Qatar champions were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Continental showpiece.
“When we crashed out in the semi-finals (to IR Iran's Persepolis) last season, we were devastated. It was very difficult to deal with it. But this time the situation is different and we will not repeat the same mistakes," said Xavi.
“We must take the opportunities we have and make the most of them. We have to keep our character and winning mentality that we have. We must handle pressure, whether we are playing at home or away.”
Both teams share a long rivalry and are among the most successful clubs in West Asia.
They also boast a proud continental history, having won Asia’s premier club competition on two occasions each.
Al Hilal’s two triumphs came in the Asian Club Championship in 1992 and 2000, while Al Sadd won it in 1989 before lifting the 2011 AFC Champions League title.
Al Hilal head coach Lucescu, in expecting an exciting match, believes his visiting side will be able to handle whatever Al Sadd have planned for them.
"We are ready to play the first half of the semi-final, and we hope to get a positive result," said Romanian Lucescu.
The fact that both teams are in the semi-finals, added Lucescu, shows the strength and development of both teams.
"We will face a strong and well organised team, that has outstanding players with a high percentage of ball possession."
“#ACL2019 is the only trophy I’m missing with @Alhilal_EN 🏆”— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) September 30, 2019
”I’m not looking for revenge against Urawa 🇯🇵”
”We’re only looking for a win 🔝”
we asked @salem_d29 some questions before tomorrow’s game 🗣👇 pic.twitter.com/TjmJeEXU3S
The challenges of the Saudi Pro League, however, will ensure Al Hilal are competitively ready for Al Sadd.
"We have played strong matches in the domestic league, that helped us to be fully prepared for the semi-final against Al Sadd."
The return leg at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh is on October 22.
Photos: Al Sadd SC, Al Hilal SFC
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