AFC Champions League Review: Xavi's Al Sadd set up Al-Nassr showdown

By Sports Desk August 13, 2019

Al Sadd triumphed in an all-Qatari AFC Champions League last-16 tie with a 3-1 victory over Al Duhail on Tuesday.

Xavi's side were the more clinical at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium as they secured a 4-2 aggregate triumph over their Stars League rivals.

They will face Al Nassr in the quarter-finals, the Saudi Arabian side having beaten Al Wahda on Monday in the first knockout round.

Al Duhail made the early running in pursuit of a goal to swing the tie in their favour, following a 1-1 first leg draw, but Al Sadd went ahead against the run of play after 20 minutes through Akram Afif, who had a simple finish after an unselfish pass from Baghdad Bounedjah.

Bounedjah hit the post before Al Sadd got their second 11 minutes before the break, Abdelkarim Hassan blasting home a free-kick.

Edmilson got a goal back before the hour mark, but Al Sadd made certain of victory when Ahmed Yasser put into his own net in injury time, and Mohammed Muntari was sent off for violent conduct as Al Duhail frustrations boiled over.

In the later match, Al Hilal edged through 4-3 on aggregate despite a 1-0 defeat to Al Ahli in Riyadh.

The Group C winners appeared in control after a 4-2 first-leg win, but Abdulfattah Asiri's precise finish three minutes before the interval had King Saud University Stadium on edge.

Al-Hilal survived the second half unscathed, though, and will meet Al Ittihad in the last eight.

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  • Big Match Focus: Arsenal v Manchester City (Sunday 16:30 GMT) Big Match Focus: Arsenal v Manchester City (Sunday 16:30 GMT)

    Manchester City's 2-1 defeat to local rivals Manchester United has seemingly put an end to their title challenge for this season.

    Pep Guardiola's two-time defending champions have won two of their last five Premier League matches and are now 14 points behind leaders Liverpool, with Leicester City six clear in second.

    Now, City must bounce back as they take on Arsenal, who finally ended a nine-match winless run – their worst streak since 1977 – with a 3-1 triumph over struggling West Ham.

    With temporary boss Freddie Ljungberg having got that first win under his belt, can he put himself right in the frame to be the next permanent Gunners' manager by shocking City?



    City's 2-1 Manchester derby defeat has left their title defence in ruins.

    A comeback from such a mighty points deficit is surely unlikely given no club has ever accomplished that feat before, while City's record of 32 points from their first 16 games of the campaign are a career worst for Guardiola.

    And, on paper, City's trip to Arsenal is hardly the ideal follow-up match.

    Under the guidance of Ljungberg, Arsenal ended a wretched run on Monday as they beat West Ham away from home.

    While it was by no means vintage Arsenal, the Gunners did at least show some of the attacking verve many expect of such a talented forward unit.

    With City likely to still be reeling from their derby loss, Arsenal might just feel Sunday represents a great opportunity to claim a victory that would provide a massive boost ahead of the busy Christmas period.


    Mesut Ozil is back in favour at Arsenal again since Ljungberg's temporary appointment and they will need him at his very best if they are to even get remotely close to a top-four finish.

    He certainly has not been at that level since the start of last season, when he averaged a goal involvement (five goals, two assists) every 249 minutes. This term that has dropped even more to one every 610 minutes.

    At his best, Ozil got six goals and 19 assists in 35 top-flight matches back in 2015-16, having a hand in one or the other every 122 minutes.

    Kevin De Bruyne fulfils a similar creative role for City, having averaged a goal or assist almost every match (one every 94 minutes), though he also offers more in terms of box-to-box responsibilities than the German.

    With four goals and nine assists, De Bruyne is on course for the most productive season of his career and he has definitely not suffered long-lasting effects of his injury problems last term.

    The Belgium international is averaging four chances created in each match in 2019-20, while Ozil's record of 18 opportunities laid on in seven matches is significantly less impressive.


    Although Arsenal traditionally are seen as one of the Premier League's best teams, they go into Sunday's game without back-to-back wins in the top flight this season.

    Of the Gunners' past six domestic games, they have won only once, while also drawing three.

    But City's away form will not offer Ljungberg's men with much reason to quake in their boots, given the champions have lost twice in their six most recent league trips away from the Etihad Stadium.


    Arsenal have lost their past four Premier League meetings with City. The last time they lost five consecutive top-flight matches to a single club was against United between September 1983 and August 1985.

    City have won on each of their two most recent Premier League trips to Arsenal, which is more than they had managed in their previous 32 top-flight visits to the Gunners.

    Victory for City will ensure they are the first club to win three consecutive away games against Arsenal in the top flight since West Ham did so between 1991 and 1995.

    City will be eager for Sergio Aguero to be fit for the clash. The Argentina striker has scored eight goals in his past eight meetings with the Gunners in all competitions, more than any other player since he joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

    But the champions will need to be alert to Alexandre Lacazette. He has scored 100 per cent of his five league goals this term at home, a record matched by no one else.

  • Rudiger eager to lead from the back for Chelsea Rudiger eager to lead from the back for Chelsea

    Antonio Rudiger is determined to become a "commanding" figure for Chelsea now that he has put injury problems behind him.

    The 26-year-old made just his second appearance of the season in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Lille that secured a Champions League last-16 spot for the Blues.

    Having overcome knee and pelvis issues in recent months, experienced defender Rudiger is relishing the opportunity to influence Frank Lampard's youngsters from the back.

    "In my position it is very important to speak, to be loud," he told reporters, quoted in several British newspapers.

    "I have the whole pitch in front of me and this has always been natural to me. I have always, even when I was young, been commanding.

    "I see myself as helping the others, as always. As I did in the other years in the team when I played with David Luiz or Gary Cahill.

    "I am always loud on the pitch, especially with the young guys because you need to help them.

    "There will be a period, that is normal because we are all human, that you will fall a bit, the performances will go down.

    "But there especially you need to, and me as the most experienced in the back, need to help those young guys. I'm in for that."

    Fikayo Tomori, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma have all filled in at centre-back this term, with the latter partnering Rudiger on the Germany international's return to action.

    The pair performed well against Lille and Rudiger is confident of building a strong partnership with whoever he plays alongside.

    "For me, it is just a matter of communication," he said. "If you don't speak then things will be a bit difficult, but me and Kurt spoke directly and the commands were clear. 

    "So it was easier for everyone. That's just the issue of being commanding.

    "For me, it is just an issue of speaking because if you don't speak it will be difficult."

    Chelsea return to Premier League action on Saturday with a home match against Bournemouth.

  • Robertson: Nobody wants to face Liverpool in Champions League last 16 Robertson: Nobody wants to face Liverpool in Champions League last 16

    Andy Robertson insists Liverpool have gained a reputation in Europe that makes them a team to avoid in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

    The Reds remain on course to defend their continental crown after beating Salzburg 2-0 on Tuesday to secure a place in Monday's last-16 draw in Nyon.

    Jurgen Klopp's side beat domestic rivals Tottenham 2-0 in last season's final, a year on from losing to Real Madrid in the showpiece fixture.

    Having finished top of Group E, Liverpool can face one of Real Madrid, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund or Lyon in the next round.

    Robertson believes each of those sides would rather dodge a trip to Anfield as the reigning champions aim to reach the final for a third year running.

    "That is the atmosphere we have created in the last two years - a team which has been to the final twice and we are respected in this tournament," Robertson told reporters, quoted by several British newspapers.

    "Maybe the first season when we went to the final, I don't think we were really respected until after we went to Porto and washed them away.

    "We did not get the respect we deserved. Now, we know we are respected in Europe. No one will want us but everyone who gets into the last 16 will fancy themselves.

    "It is the toughest tournament. The teams you come up against are outstanding and will fancy themselves. Everyone is confident. And when you get to the last 16 you get to the nitty-gritty."

    Liverpool lead the way in the Premier League and have knocked the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Barcelona out of the Champions League in the past two seasons.

    But Robertson, who has featured 24 times in UEFA's flagship competition, concedes Liverpool now have a target on their back as reigning champions.

    "Last year and the year before we have been excellent in the knockout stages and we have controlled games, but we know that now we are the champions everyone wants to beat us," he said.

    "That is what we have to deal with and hopefully we can deal with it well. But there are about 40 games between now and the last 16 so we will worry about that when the time comes.

    "We need to keep proving why people don't want to play against us. We know it will be tough, but we look forward to the challenge as we want to go far in this tournament again and we have made a big step."

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