Al Rayyan will be aiming for an upset win against Iran’s Persepolis today in their second group stage match of the AFC Champions League in Margao, India.
The Qatar side failed to secure three points against FC Goa after a goalless draw in the opener, while the 2019 runners-up Persepolis defeated UAE’s Al Wahda 1-0 on Wednesday.
Their Matchday One stalemate means Laurent Blanc’s Al Rayyan have not tasted victory in their last five encounters in all competitions after three losses and one draw in the Qatar Stars League.
However, with only the group winners assured of advancing, Al Rayyan will definitely take the game to Persepolis. “The result from the last match was not good for Al Rayyan because I think we deserved to win and scoring the first goal is very important,” said Blanc.
“Against Persepolis, we need to apply the same intensity and that is to keep the ball high up and score at least one or two goals. The pressure is on Persepolis and not with Al Rayyan. Persepolis and Al Wahda are the favourites of the group. Last year they (Persepolis) reached the final of the AFC Champions League and a couple of times reached the semi-finals.”
The teams met in the group stage of the 2017 edition with Al Rayyan having the edge with one win and a draw.
Judging by their current form, Yahya Golmohammadi’s Persepolis have certainly put behind last season’s AFC Champions League final defeat against Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai FC. Persepolis have not lost in their last five matches in all competitions, with their only blemish being a 1-1 draw against Shahr Khodro in the Iran Pro League on April 3.
Seyed Jalal Hosseini has been a rock for Persepolis, with the veteran defender scoring a rare goal in the win over Al Wahda and the Iranian giants will not be lacking confidence against Al Rayyan. “We have prepared everything for this match and we have prepared them well for the six games we have here for this edition of the AFC Champions League,” said Persepolis assistant head coach Hamid Motahari.
“Persepolis has always had a winning mentality built in the players and we are fully committed to achieving success by being the best and becoming champions.”
Al Wahda, FC Goa primed
In another Group E match, United Arab Emirates’ Al Wahda and India’s FC Goa will be eyeing victory when they lock horns today.
Al Wahda suffered a 1-0 defeat against 2020 AFC Champions League runners-up Persepolis FC on Matchday One, while FC Goa held Qatar’s Al Rayyan to a goalless draw in Group E’s other fixture.
Al Wahda came from a goal down to defeat Iraq’s Al Zawraa SC 2-1 in the 2021 AFC Champions League playoff but were unable to replicate their performance against Persepolis on Wednesday.
Henk Ten Cate’s charges have notched three wins and two losses in their last five matches in all competitions and the Abu Dhabi-based side hold the edge over their Indian rivals, having a superior Continental experience with 12 previous appearances in the AFC Champions League.
Al Wahda will be boosted by the return of captain Ismael Matar, who made a cameo in the second half against Persepolis. Tim Matavz will lead their attacking line alongside Khalil al-Hammadi.
“Despite the loss in the first game. I was not unhappy with the performance of the team,” said ten Cate. “First of all we played one of the best teams in Asia and I felt we at least deserved a point. Now we’re facing another opponent (FC Goa) where the home advantage is not really an advantage. Because normally the advantage is because of the crowd. There’s no crowd, so there’s no home advantage.
“I watched FC Goa’s game against Al Rayyan. They are a very well organised team with a very good defensive centre with James Donachie, Ivan González, Edu Bedia in the middle and they are a very strong part of the team with a very good goalkeeper. We are facing an opponent who already have a point but one win can change the whole dynamics of the group and we’re here to do so.”
FC Goa kept Qatar’s Al Rayyan at bay to earn a historic first-ever point for an Indian team in the AFC Champions League. Boosted by the point, Juan Ferrando’s men are set to approach their next game differently, hoping to earn three points against Al Wahda.
Apart from having home advantage, FC Goa will be searching for their first win in five matches, having last tasted victory when they beat Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League in February.
Centre-back Gonzalez will have his work cut out for him while captain Bedia will be the ever present force in midfield. Jorge Ortiz and Ishan Pandita will be relied upon to deliver the goals.
“We earned a point in the last match and we are obviously looking to improve and continue in the same way in our next match,” said Ferrando. “It’s important to have control in the way we attack, especially in the final third.
“The most important aspect here is to work as a unit and stay focused on Champions League football and nothing else. Of course it is the most important journey for us as a club but we must keep our heads in the game. We did what was needed in the first game. I’m happy with how the team played in defence and we needed some improvements in attack but now the most important thing is the present and the future.”
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