Qatar Stars League champions Al Sadd SC will host Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal FC in the first leg of the AFC Champions League 2019 semifinal at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Tuesday.
Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd have already seen off a Saudi outfit in the form of Al Nassr FC in the quarterfinals of this season’s AFC Champions League recording a 4-3 win on aggregate. Meanwhile, Al Hilal booked their spot in the last four after a 3-1 aggregate win over local rivals Al Ittihad Club.
With the two sides set to clash in Doha, we take a look at the five key facts surrounding the West Asia Zonal Semifinal…
1) The two sides have a history
The two sides have met nine teams in the AFC Champions League over the years with four of them coming in the 2014 season alone. However, Al Sadd do not hold a great record against their Saudi opponents having won only twice in the nine matches. The Qatari club have lost four and drawn three in nine while they have failed to score in five of those games. Their only meeting in the knockout stages was in 2014 when Al Hilal edged Al Sadd 1-0 in the quarterfinal stages.
2) The duo are a fixture in the ACL semifinals
AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 3-1 Al Ittihad (Sebastian Giovinco 78′)
The two sides have made themselves permanent fixtures in the recent semifinals of Asia’s premier club football competition. Al Sadd are making back-to-back appearances in the semifinals of the ACL and had also reached this stage back in 2011. Their three semifinal appearances is a record for a Qatari club, while Al Hilal are making their fifth semifinal appearance having reached the penultimate hurdle in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019 — a record they share back home with Al Ittihad.
3) The White Wolves are on a roll
AFC Champions League 2019: Al Sadd SC 2-1 Al Nassr FC (Hassan Al Haydos 59′)
Qatari champions Al Sadd have now won five successive home games in the AFC Champions League for the very first time in their history. Their winning run began with a 1-0 victory over 2018 finalists Persepolis FC in the group stages which was followed by wins over Pakhtakor Tashkent and Al Ahli Saudi FC that helped the Qataris reach the knockout stages. In the Round of 16, Al Sadd defeated local rivals Al Duhail SC 3-1 in the second leg at home after the first leg had ended in a 1-1 draw while in the quarterfinals, they overturned a 2-1 first leg defeat at the hands of Al Nassr with a 3-1 win in Doha.
4) Coach Xavi with an odd record!
Xavi loses a shoe after Al Sadd denied penalty against Al Duhail in AFC Champions League 2019
With five goals in total, Al Sadd are the side that have scored the most number of goals from outside the penalty area in the ongoing AFC Champions League season. But, what is interesting is that it is their current head coach Xavi who has scored the most goals from outside the box than any other player this season. The Barcelona legend has scored two goals from outside the box in ACL 2019 — both coming from free kicks. Xavi had retired as a player after helping Al Sadd progress from the group stages and took over as the head coach of the side from Jesualdo Ferreira.
5) The player to watch out for
AFC Champions League 2019: Al Duhail SC 0-1 Al Sadd SC (Akram Afif 30′)
Akram Afif has scored four goals in nine matches in ACL 2019 for Al Sadd and what makes him more dangerous is the fact that he netted those four goals from his last six shots (excluding blocked shots)! The 22-year-old Qatar international is also the player who has created more chances than anyone else who is still playing in the competition this season. Only Shanghai SIPG’s Oscar and Al Ittihad’s Carlos Villanueva, with 33 chances, better Afif’s tally of 26.
(Facts via Opta)