AFC Champions League – Play Offs
Al-Gharafa V Al Shabab, 4.45pm BST
HAVING seen his side finish a disappointing season without a domestic trophy for the first time since 2007, Al Gharafa coach Habib Tounsi is hoping his players can revive their spirits by defeating Al Shabab to progress in the AFC Champions League.
Al Gharafa’s hopes of winning any domestic silverware for the 2012-13 season were ended last Wednesday when they lost 4-2 to Lekhwiya in the quarter-finals of the Emir’s Cup.
It compounded the disappointment for their fans who had seen them finish a lowly sixth in the Qatar Stars League during the season, a massive 21 points behind champions Al Sadd.
But their domestic form stands in contrast to their performance on the continental stage where they have reached the last 16 for only the second time after finishing runners-up behind Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in Group C.
Having overcome Iranian side Sepahan and Al Nasr of the United Arab Emirates to reach the knockout stage, Tounsi is hopeful his side can now progress further in the competition, starting with the first leg of their round of 16 clash against Al Shabab at the Al Gharafa Stadium on Tuesday.
Al Shabab topped Group A, finishing two points ahead of Al Gharafa’s Qatari rivals El Jaish and arrived in Doha in confident mood on Monday after a 3-1 win over Al Raed last Thursday which sent them through to a semi-final clash with Al Ahli in the King's Cup of Champions.
The Riyadh-based club reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals in 2010 and while coach Michel Preud'homme hopes his side can improve on that this year, he feels there is little to choose between the teams.
Brazilian midfielder Fernando Menegazzo will return to the Al Shabab line-up after missing the previous match through suspension but fellow midfielder Omar Al Ghamdi is banned after receiving his second yellow card in their 2-1 win over UAE side Al Jazira a fortnight ago.
Over 2.5 goals @ 4/5 BET365
AL Shabab Riyadh @ 7/4 BET365