By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Sadd are expected to field a full-strength team against Muaither in their Amir Cup round-of-16 clash today, with coach Xavi Hernandez insisting there are no minnows in cup competitions. The match will be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium at 7.15pm.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Xavi said: “We are ready to compete against Muaither, a second division club. All the teams are strong and I expect a difficult match. This championship is very important to us. We look forward to competing in this tournament and winning it. All the teams always have motivation and are enthusiastic to play against Al Sadd.”
The coach added: “I am happy and proud to be a coach for these players. We must now forget the league championship and focus on the Amir Cup.”
“The championship has a knockout format, and clubs like Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have been knocked out by second division clubs (in their cup competition). We must play with all our strength whoever the opponent is, as all the teams want to reach the final.”
Xavi continued: “We have 25 players ready to play, and I do not have a second team. Any lineup we choose is ready to play, and we will decide which lineup will go into the match at the end of today’s session.”
Regarding his message to the players, Xavi said: “My message to the players is that we must reach the final. They have the motivation and spirit to reach the final.”
He added: “We lost in the Champions League against Persepolis and we committed a small error which saw us go out while we had the best players. I am not thinking about losing. My only thoughts are on the players and their performance, and preparing them to get the win and to reach the quarter-final.”
Regarding the new tournament format, the coach said: “We have to accept the new format of the competition, which is fair to all teams. Playing for 90 minutes is a good thing, and we have to focus during these 90 minutes in order to win.”
Al Sadd forward Akram Afif, meanwhile, emphasised the importance of remaining focused.
Akram said: “Some people think that the match will be easy but there are many examples from around the world of teams going out to second division sides. Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa lost to Al Markhiya last season.”
He continued: “We need to play with full commitment against Muaither. We are in a good period now and there’s an excellent feeling among the players. We need to be play at our 100% in these games and just one mistake can send us out. We want to continue and reach the Amir Cup final again, and play for the title.”
Muaither coach Mounir al-Jawani said playing the tournament itself is a ‘great honour’ for his team.
“It is a great honour for us to participate in the Amir Cup, which is a very prestigious tournament. Every team wishes to win it,” said al-Jawani.
“We will strive to achieve an honourable result, as it is a “final” match for us, and the opposing team is the best in Qatar. I hope the players enjoy playing in the tournament, even if we lose, we are playing with a team the size of Al Sadd, and we hope to honour the club.
Meanwhile Al Markhiya hope to spring a surprise against Al Rayyan, with coach Mohamed Ali saying his players have the ability to cause an upset.
“We respect Al Rayyan but that doesn’t mean we fear them. We look forward to beating them,” said Ali.
“Our players are motivated and psychologically prepared for the match. They must focus and not rush.”
Al Rayyan coach and French legend Laurent Blanc said his team will play to their full potential against Markhiya who had upset them in last year’s tournament.
“We have devised a game plan for Markhiya. We are not dwelling too much on last year’s loss. This is a different game altogether.”
In another match today, Al Shahaniya will take on Al Gharafa.
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