It has been almost a decade since Al Arabi won a title and their coach Heimir Hallgrimsson has been forthright about their ambition to end that drought against a weakened Al Sadd side in the 2019-2020 Ooredoo Cup final at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Al Duhail today.
“The Ooredoo Cup final is an important milestone for us as it has been a really long time since Al Arabi won a trophy. It is also a good opportunity for us to turn things around. We need to win the trophy,” Hallgrimsson said at the pre-match press conference.
Trophies have been rare for The Dream Team in the recent past; they won their last title in 1997 — the Sheikh Jassim Cup. However, the seven-time Qatar league champions, whose last league title was also in 1997, is full of motivation against Al Sadd , whose preparations are marred by the absence of their several senior players.
Ten Sadd players are away with the Qatar team preparing to play Ghana in the international friendly on October 12 and some of their foreign players are also on national duty for their friendlies.
“I had watched Al Sadd play Qatar SC the other day in round two of the 2020-21 Ooredoo Cup. They had some 10 players in the Qatar national team camp, yet they had depth in their squad. Al Sadd is always a tough team,” said the Icelander.
“We had a good pre-season camp, even though a brief one. Chances are same for both teams in this match. We must be playing at our best. We will also be missing some players due to national duty and injuries. But that’s not important. We will play to our capabilities.”
Though Al Sadd is not fielding their top team, the 14-time league champions also have the motivation to complete the title hat-trick of the season after their triumph in Sheikh Jassim Cup and Qatar Cup this season.
Wolves coach Xavi Hernandez admitted his team would miss the top players but felt it is a great opportunity for the young players to make their presence felt.
“We are very happy to be playing in this final. To be honest, I did not expect that we would qualify for this game. We have to play with a group of players who are not on national team duty. The final is a big opportunity for the young players. I’ve told them to take advantage of it. These youngsters are the future of the club, I hope they enjoy the occasion and prove themselves,” Xavi said.
The former champions (2010-2011) will have the experience of midfielders Rodrigo Tabata and Santi Cazorla.
“This final is a good chance for our young players in particular. We have plenty of experienced players as well. I hope we will be successful and emerge as champions,” Tabata said.
Al Arabi’s striker Sebastian Soria also feels that they have a big opportunity today.
“We had more than a month to work and prepare for the final after we qualified for it. We’ve trained well. We had played some good games last season. I am happy that I am a part of Al Arabi this season. I already played two matches in this season’s Ooredoo Cup and have confidence in our abilities. We have a big chance,” Soria said.
Taking about Sadd’s inexperienced side, Soria said, “The most important thing is the attitude. We must have a strong mentality. Al Sadd may be without many top players, but we are focusing on our game and winning the Cup. We are in the final because we played well in the games prior to it.”
In the semi-finals, Al Arabi defeated Al Rayyan 2-1 and Al Sadd beat Al Ahli 2-0.
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