Tuesday, 14 May 2013
DOHA AFC Champions League debutants El Jaish and Al Gharafa of Qatar will square up against Al Ahli and Al Shabab, respectively, in the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League in Doha on Tuesday.
El Jaish, eliminated in the semi-final stage of the Emir Cup by Al Rayyan on Saturday, are boosted by the return of star striker Adriano Martins in the team The Brazilian ace missed the last few games due to injury but will return fit and ready in an attempt to help Jaish put one foot in the quarter- finals first leg.
El Jaish claimed an impressive runners-up finish in Group A behind Saudi champions Al Shabab and ahead of Al Jazira and Tractorsazi Tabriz.
Speaking at pre-match press conference on Monday, El Jaish coach Razvan Lucescu said, “We want to have a positive result in the first leg of the match as we want to continue our successful campaign in the competition and get as far as we can.
“We will be playing against one of the top teams in the continent who reached the final of the competition last year.” Meanwhile, former finalists Al Ahli are boosted by the return of midfield duo Jairo Palomino and Bruno Cesar for the clash.
Group C winners Al Ahli, who lost last year’s final to Ulsan Hyundai, arrived in Doha on Sunday after sealing a place in the semi-finals of the King’s Cup with a 3-1 win over Al Nassr on Wednesday.
In addition, both Colombian Palomino and Brazilian Bruno Cesar are available to coach Aleksander Ilic after the pair missed the 2-2 draw with UAE Pro League side Al Nasr two weeks ago, although midfielder Abdulrahim Jezawi is doubtful after missing the win over Al Nassr due to a stomach injury.
“We will be playing against a tough team who have achieved good results in the competition despite the fact that they are playing in the AFC Champions League for the first time,” said Al Ahli coach Ilic.
“We hope that we can get a good result before hosting the second leg which will be decisive.
In Tuesday’s other match, Al Gharafa are hosting Al Shabab. The club from Riyadh was Group A winners while Gharafa finished second in Group C. Al Gharafa can take some tips from El Jaish who trounced the Saudi club 3-0 in a Group match recently.
Having overcome Iranian side Sepahan and Al Nasr of the United Arab Emirates to reach the knockout stage, Al Gharafa coach Habib Tounsi is hopeful that his side can now progress to the last eight of the competition.