Date: Tuesday February 17, 2015.
Timing: 19:10 Local time (GMT+4).
Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium – Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Al-Sadd struggled to progress to this play-off after being held to a goalless draw at home to Bahraini minnows Riffa before a series of 24 penalty shootouts handed them an 11-10 win and a chance to make it to the group stage if they beat Al-Wahda.
The home team are back in the Champions League for the first time since 2008 when they were knocked out of the group stage. Their last Champions League was 0-0 away draw, against none other than Al-Sadd.
Qatar’s most successful club have won the Champions League twice, in 1989 and 2011. The only Qatari club to win it so far. Al-Sadd have also won bronze at the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan. ‘The Boss’ won the Qatari league 13 times, 5 more than their nearest opponents.
Finished the season in third place, 1 point behind second placed El-Jaish. Despite a good start to the season, they were hampered by a 6 games winless streak at the start of the second leg which was too much for them to claw back.
Claimed back the top spot following a 4-1 thumping of Umm Salal but also thanks to Lekwiya’s 2-0 home loss to third place El-Jaish. A one point lead with 9 games to go is nothing and Lekhwiya will look to exploit any tiredness in their ranks to snatch the lead again before they start their own Asian Campaign in the group stage.
Moroccan coach Hussein Amotta is a club icon, having played for Al-sadd for 4 seasons in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. He joined the team as a manager in July 2012 and since then led them to one QSL title and one Emir of Qatar Cup. But it is only ever a success for Al-Sadd if he re-creates the heroics of his predecessor Jorge Fossati to win the Champions League again.
Edinaldo Grafite: The newest addition to Al-Sadd’s squad, the Brazilian may just be the difference between winning silverware & another disappointing season for Al-Sadd. The 2008-09 Bundesliga top goalscorer signed just last week from UAE’s Al-Ahli and Al-Sadd would love it if he repeats his goalscoring form that led his former employers to a 3-1 victory at the same stadium just four months ago.
The four times UAE League champions have been in the news a lot recently, first for signing Saudi’s former legendary striker Sami Al-Jaber as their new coach and then for an eleventh hour attempt at signing Ghanaian international Harrison Afful that didn’t go through as the UAE transfer window shut prior to completing the transaction. Al-Wahda’s best Champions League result was reaching the semi-final in 2007 before bowing out to Iranian side Sepahan.
Al-Wahda edged their Abu Dhabi rivals Al-Jazira to second place, but they never had any realistic chances of winning the title, finishing a whole 16 points behind champions Al-Ahli. This was their highest finish since winning the title in 2009-10.
With just over half the season gone, Al-Wahda sit third, four points behind city rivals & league leaders, Al-Jazira and two points ahead of fourth placed Al-Shabab. ‘The Maroon’ are now on a four games unbeaten run.
Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber has just joined Al-Wahda last week and this match will be his first in charge. Al-Jaber is a truly legendary footballer but his managerial experience is limited to one season with his boyhood team Al-Hilal in which he won no silverware despite an incredible 70% win ratio. The prospect of facing Al-Hilal in the group stage will be an extra motivation for Al-Jaber if he needed any.
Sebastian Tagliabue: The former Everton forward joined Al-Wahda in 2013 after a successful spell in the Saudi League and has since averaged around a goal a game. Sami Al Jaber needs to bring the best out of the Argentine if he is to be a success at the Al Nahyan Stadium.