Race for ACL quarters spots hots up as eight teams battle for four berths - GulfToday

Race for ACL quarters spots hots up as eight teams battle for four berths


Al Wahda players warm up during a training session.

Al Wahda, under new coach Maurice Steijn, will face Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Sunday, before hosting the return leg the following week.

The winners of the Al Wahda versus Al Nassr tie will face either Al Duhail or Al Sadd, who clash in an all-Qatari Round of 16 tie, in the quarter-finals.

As eight West Asian teams battle for four spots in the 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-finals, they will be looking for their talistmans to lead by example.

Al Wahda will once again pin their hopes on 27-year-old winger Leonardo to lead their charge I their first knockout stage appearance in 12 years.

The Brazilian scored eight of his side’s 14 goals in the group stage, helping himself to the top of the competition’s scoring charts going into the Round of 16.

Leonardo joined Al Wahda from Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in August 2018 and made an instant impact at Al Nahyan Stadium, scoring 13 goals in 21 league games and adding eight in the AFC Champions League. His next challenge is to guide his side to victory against Al Nassr, a side he could not score against while in Al Ahli colours.

Al  Wahda FSCC head coach Maurice Steijn has declared that he is happy with the way boys have been training hard.

The 45-year-old Dutch tactician took over from compatriot Henk Ten Cate in June, and has been using the camp to familiarise himself with the players.

Al Wahda have been busy reinforcing their squad with left-back Al Husain Saleh signed on a season-long loan deal from Al Nasr.

The Abu Dhabi heavyweights have also brought in Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Milesi, who is on loan from Al Dhafra, and 18-year-old Brazilian midfielder Eduardo Voltan da Silva, better known as ‘Dudu.’

In their most recent friendly against VVCS Club, Al Wahda came back from a goal down to salvage a 3-3 draw, and despite the result, Steijn admits there is still room for improvement in the coming weeks.

“I play every match looking for the win, this what I say to my team, they have to work hard, they have to fight with everything they have,” exclaimed Steijn.

“We are training on the physical, technical and tactics sides, and we are now almost two weeks in the camp, and I am very happy with the team. “We are working hard, training hard, and we played two very good games so far against good opponents, we got good results, and that gives the team confidence.

“We played a good game against VVCS, I am happy we scored three goals, but I am not happy with the goals we conceded.

“We still have three weeks and a half to work on it, we are looking at all the games, and we sit with the players to ask them to keep developing and that every day they should look to be better.”

Al Wahda finished third in the UAE Pro League last season, but before the 2019-2020 season kicks off on Aug.22.

In the other important fixture of the day, Al Ittihad will play the first leg of their AFC Champions League Round of 16 encounter against Islamic Republic of Iran’s Zobahan in Dubai on Sunday.

Al Ittihad striker Romarinho has declared that he is looking to continue the fine form he displayed at the end of last season when the Saudi Arabian giants face Zobahan FC in the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16.

The livewire Brazilian joined Al Ittihad from Emirati outfit Al Jazira in 2018, having scored six times in that year’s edition of the AFC Champions League.

After initially struggling to find his feet with his new employers, Romarinho was soon grabbing headlines galore thanks to the seven goals he went on to bag in the Saudi Pro League and when he scored in each of Al Ittihad’s last three group stage games in the AFC Champions League.

With a new domestic campaign also just around the corner, Romarinho is adamant that he has no intention of letting his standards slip, adding that he believes February’s arrival of head coach Jose Luis Sierra was a key factor behind his upturn in form.


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