Having won three top honours at Qatar Football Association’s awards gala on Tuesday, Al Sadd will not be short on motivation as they take on Al Gharafa in the quarter-finals of the prestigious Amir Cup at the Abdulla bin Khalifa Stadium in Duhail.
After several elimination rounds, the country’s most lucrative football tournament has reached its business end with the top four teams in the QNB Stars League placed directly in the quarter-finals where they will meet rivals who have survived the chop over the past couple of weeks.
But despite the supposed uncertainty of cup tournaments, none of the lower division teams have progressed to the quarter-finals, underlining the primacy of the QNB Stars League.
That said Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who was adjudged the best coach in Qatar on Tuesday, was not taking his team’s match against Al Gharafa lightly.
“We are going to face Al Gharafa in the quarter-final of the Amir’s Cup and this match is going to be different from our clash in the league because it’s a knockout game,” said the veteran Portuguese tactician.
“The Al Sadd players are fresh from winning the league and they are now full of spirit to play in the Amir’s Cup. We could have five games coming up in 20 days (also including their AFC Champions League matches) and this needs great preparations. We at Al Sadd have to play domestically and in Asia as well, and this is not easy for the team and players.”
He added: “We will fight for the win and a spot in the semi-final. I have won the Cup with Al Sadd before. The tournament is very important for us. The match against Al Gharafa is going to be tough, especially as they have good players and a good coach.”
Ferreira added that the prospect of playing the final at the brand new Al Wakrah Stadium on May 16 will provide some extra motivation for the team.
“Our aim is to play at the (new) Al Wakrah Stadium, after having played the final at the Khalifa Stadium before. We want to reach the final and meet His Highness the Amir,” he emphasised.
Ferreira was all praise for Akram Afif and Baghdad Bounedjah who also won top awards on Tuesday.
Afif was adjudged the best player while Bounedjah bagged a special award for being the top scorer in the QNB Stars League with 39 goals.
“It is not easy to manage, especially when you’re playing in different tournaments. I want to congratulate Baghdad and Akram, and all the players who helped this duo to get these awards. All the players deserve this appreciation.”
Meanwhile, Al Gharafa coach Christian Gourcuff said his players will have to be fully focused to get the better of a team like Al Sadd
“Playing against a team like Al Sadd is not easy. We drew one game against them in the league but lost the other. But we have shown that we are capable of producing a good fight on several occasions,” said Gourcuff.
Asked why Al Gharafa’s form keeps fluctuating wildly between games, Gourcuff said it was a mystery even to him.
“I do not know exactly, but we know that this is the last championship of the season and we are trying to win it. If we do not win it, we have to finish the season well,” the Frenchman said.
AL DUHAIL WELL PREPARED
Al Duhail’s preparations have been top notch, coach Rui Faria says, as the Qatar giants take on Al Shahania in the quarter-finals of the Amir Cup today.
Al Duhail are aware that they need to win the Amir Cup to redeem their season, after playing second fiddle to Al Sadd in the QNB Stars League.
“We have prepared well for the Amir Cup. We have many matches coming up with the AFC Champions League group phase also in a crucial stage,” Faria said at his pre-match press conference yesterday.
“Now we have to think about reaching the semi-finals. Step by step is our goal. We can’t start thinking about the final.”
Faria added that the players are committed to Al Duhail’s cause.
The players doing their best. They are intense in training and they are getting used to my methods. The coaches sometimes need a season or two, but so far things are going well. We need patience because we are preparing for the future.”
Today: 5:15pm: Al Shahania vs Al Duhail; 8pm: Al Gharafa vs Al Sadd
Tomorrow: 5:15pm: Al Ahli vs Al Sailiya; 8pm: Al Arabi vs Al Rayyan Courtesy:GulfTimes