JEDDAH: There is good and bad news for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli ahead of their attempt to overcome a 2-1 deficit from the first leg of their 2018 AFC Champions League second round clash with Al-Sadd on Monday in Jeddah.
The Qatari powerhouse arrived in Saudi Arabia on the back of a disappointing 1-0 loss on Friday to Al-Duhail in the semifinals of the Emir Cup but Al Ahli will have to manage without a number of star players.
A week ago in Qatar, Al-Sadd took a two-goal lead inside 30 minutes thanks to a brace from Boualem Khoukhi. Mohannad Aseri headed home early in the second-half to give Al-Ahli an away goal and hope for the second leg.
Aseri has recovered from a back injury to spearhead the attack once again and defender Mu’taz Hawsawi is also available but there is not much other good news for coach Fathi Al-Jabal in terms of available personnel.
Midfielder Ali Awaji is recovering from surgery on a dislocated shoulder sustained in Doha and star Syrian striker Omar Al-Somah is also unavailable. The Jeddah club will be without Tassir Al-Jassim and Saeed Al-Mowalem who are in action with the national team in a pre-World Cup training camp currently taking place in Spain.
“At this stage of the competition, the games are sure to be tough,” Al-Jabal said. “Missing some talented players makes it tougher but there is not much we can do about the players who can’t play, the ones who are available have been training well this week and we are ready.”
The Tunisian tactician preferred to focus on the positives from the first leg and a performance that saw the 2012 finalist disappointed to lose 2-1 despite putting the hosts under plenty of pressure and recording 21 attempts on goal.
“We are looking forward to the game in front of our own fans,” Al-Jabal said. “In the first leg we played well and the scoreline could have been better for us. We have to be patient and I am sure that we will have opportunities to score and we have to make sure that we are strong at the back.”
Al-Ahli will be encouraged by the fact that Al Sadd arrive in Jeddah with the Champions League now their only chance of silverware this season after the loss to Duhail in the Emir Cup.
It was a tough game for the 2011 Asian champions who had to play the entire second half with ten men due to a red card given to star defender Abdulkarim Hassan.
“It has been a difficult few days,” said coach Jesualdo Ferreira who welcomes back defender Pedro Miguel from suspension. “We have a tough schedule with three games in a week. The game with Al Duhail was unfortunate with refereeing decisions playing a big part.”
“Losing the game will affect us in Jeddah but we have what it takes to get the result we need. The previous season was much better for us than this season. Now we have to work very hard to achieve a positive result and move into the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League,” Ferreira added.