Date: Tuesday February 10, 2015.
Timing: 18:30 Local time (GMT+3).
Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium Doha, Qatar.
Having lost once this season and having won the Asian Champions League twice, Al-Sadd are no strangers to winning and Al-Riffa might just be in for one of the toughest battles of their lives. Al-Sadd have scored 39 goals in 16 league matches thus far, in turn Al-Riffa have 18 in 9. Despite both losing once in the current campaign, Al-Riffa will have to match top dollars against the Qatari powerhouse with the likes of Khalfan Ibrahim, Hassan Al-Hydos, Rodrigo Tabata and the rest. The Wolves will hold no bars back as Lekhwiya chases them both in the league and the Champions League. Al-Riffa will have to pull out every trick out of the hat to have a chance at winning this duel.
Al-Sadd’s beginnings started with 11 high-school students looking to play football in 1969. The next 10 years would see them slowly become an established side in the field and QSL winning domestic tournaments. By 1988, they had become the first Arab team to win the Asian Club Championship and by 2000 had established themselves well on the scene. In 2007, they won the quadruple and established themselves as arguably Qatar’s best football club of all times and for a good reason given their long list of trophies.
Finished the season in third place. Started off well in the first half despite a draw but started the second half of the season terribly with a six games winless streak. Ultimately, despite winning their last two games, it wasn’t enough and Al-Sadd finished 1 point behind second placed El-Jaish.
As usual started the season as favorites to win but a shock defeat to relegation battlers Al-Shahaniya and unexpected-draws with Al-Shamal and Al-Wakrah mean they have only won once in their last four league matches and now sit two points behind leaders Lekhwiya. Ever the favourites, Al-Sadd lately seemed always susceptible to shock defeats as their end-game composure often crumbles.
Moroccan coach Lhoussine Amouta has managed Al-Sadd since July 2012. Since then, he has seen much success winning the Qatar Stars League, QNB Cup, Emir of Qatar Cup and more. It’s clear by now that Amouta has defined success for Al-Sadd with their trophies, signings and players. He is no pushover and is hardly happy even when they win.
Ali Asadalla: While Khalfan Ibrahim may be the most famous name in Al-Sadd’s line-up, his compatriot Ali Asadalla is one who always seems to catch opponents by surprise. 22 years old and already a prodigy in the making. Asadalla was the man responsible for keeping corralling the midfield and feeding the attacks while he won the MVP and the 2014 WAFF Championship. Since then, he has been daring in his aerobatic ability which gave way to notoriety on the field as one of the most technically-gifted players at such a young age.
Founded in 1953 under the name West Riffa SC but was renamed Riffa SC in 2001. Riffa participated in the group stage of the 2004 AFC Champions League but withdrew after just two matches citing security concerns as they were scheduled to face Uzbek champions Pakhtakor two weeks after suicide bombing s hit the Uzbek city of Bukhara. Subsequently, they were hit with a 2 years ban from all AFC Competitions. ‘The Royals’ are hopeful of a second group stage appearance but face an uphill battle against a much more powerful Al-Sadd team.
Despite being outscored (24 goals in the whole of the 18-matchweek season) by at least five other clubs, they were still crowned champions of the VIVA Bahrain League on the final day, a single point ahead of runner-ups Al-Manama.
We are midway through the Bahraini league season and Riffa are fourth, two points behind joint leaders Al-Muharraq and Al-Manama. They may just live to rue their matchweek 9 home loss to Al-Manama as the moment they lost the title but there is still plenty to play for.
Portuguese coach Jose Garrido is no stranger to Riffa, returning to the club for a second spell in 2014, having led them between 2008 and 2011 winning one Bahrain King’s Cup title. Garrido has been around Middle Eastern football for nine years now and has challenged for titles in Kuwait and Oman but his silverware cabinet remains fairly empty.
Jhon Obregon: Riffa got really busy in the January transfer market, replacing two of their foreigners. Colombian journeyman Jhon Obregon was brought on board replacing Brazilian Rodrigo and he will be trusted to bring in the goals. At only 25, he is already trying his luck at a fifth different country, albeit his first outside of Latin America. He will need to have an instant impact if Riffa are to stand any chance of progressing in the Champions League.