By Sports Reporter/Doha
The famous Azadi Stadium in Tehran will be home to the last match in the career of Spanish football legend Xavi as Al Sadd face Persepolis in their final Group C game in the AFC Champions League today.
The former Barcelona and Spain midfielder brings to an end a four-year stay in Doha as he prepares to hang up his boots following the Persepolis clash, bringing down the curtain on a 22-year career which saw him win 32 titles, the last of which was the 2018-19 Qatar Stars League. Xavi played his last match on Qatari soil on Friday but Al Sadd ended up losers to Al Duhail in the Amir Cup final. A win against Persepolis therefore would help him end his career on a winning note.
In Tehran, a repeat of the 2018 AFC Champions League semi-final between Persepolis and Al Sadd comes under contrasting circumstances, with Al Sadd already qualifying and Persepolis eliminated from Group D.
Today, the two sides meet for the sixth time in just over a year. Persepolis and Al Sadd were pitted together in Group C last time around. A brace from Baghdad Bounedjah helped Al Sadd to a 3-1 win in Doha on Matchday Two.
A victory for Al Sadd, who have 10 points, will help them top the group. But a loss, combined with a win for Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor (8), against Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, will see the Uzbeks rise to the top.
Meanwhile, Al Duhail will aim to carry forward the momentum of their crushing 4-1 Amir Cup win over Al Sadd when they take on Saudi giants Al Hilal in their last Group C game at the Abdulla bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha tonight.
Both teams have already qualified for the round of 16, and Al Hilal, with 12 points from five matches, are guaranteed to top the group as Al Duhail can only finish on 11 even if they win the encounter.
But despite the fact that the match is only of academic interest in the larger context of the tournament, Al Duhail are motivated by the thought of revenge, having lost the reverse fixture in Riyadh 3-1 in early March.
A victory in front of their home fans would be the perfect boost they would be looking for before the knockouts beckon in August. The Saudi side had beaten Al Ain 2-0 in the previous matchday, taking their tally to 12 points. Meanwhile, Al Duhail settled for a 1-1 draw against Esteghlal at Azadi Stadium, which was enough to send them through.
The two teams also go into the final game of the group stage following contrasting results on the domestic front.
Al Duhail made up for the disappointment of conceding the Qatar Stars League title to rivals Al Sadd by defeating the latter 4-1 in the final to lift the Amir Cup trophy last week.
Brazilian Edmilson was the star of the victory, scoring twice, while Mohamed Muntari had recorded a brace in the semi-finals. With the dangerous Youssef El Arabi and Ali Afif also in their ranks, they have enough firepower to prevail over the Saudis. Al Hilal, meanwhile, had a blank season, finishing runners-up to Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League and being eliminated in the semi-finals of the King’s Cup by eventual winners Al Tawoun.
Pericles Chamusca, Al Hilal’s third coach this season got off to a positive start, with three consecutive wins since taking over at the end of April. A 2-0 win over Al Ain on Matchday Five of the AFC Champions League was followed by two league victories over Ettifaq and Al Shabab.
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