Al-Sadd ponders ways to stop Barcelona
Former Galatasaray player Kader Keita (L) is a key man for Al-Sadd, who takes on Barcelona today in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal match. The competition is important for Barça’s Andres Iniesta, (top) since it is one of the few trophies he has yet to win. REUTERS photoAl-Sadd wants FIFA to let them field a team of 16 players when the Qatari team faces European king Barcelona in today’s Club World Cup semifinal in Japan.
“I’ve got a plan,” Al-Sadd’s Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati told reporters with a twinkle in his eye. “If they agree to my request we are allowed 15 or 16 players on the field, I think we have a chance!”
Barcelona, bidding to win its second Club World Cup in three years, is expected to overpower the Asian champions when the two sides meet in Yokohama.
The Catalan powerhouse is expected to make it to the Dec. 18 final.
“Barcelona are the biggest team in the world,” sighed Al Sadd captain Abdulla Koni. “If Real Madrid can’t beat Barcelona, how can we?”
Barca flew out to Japan immediately after a crucial 3-1 “Clasico’ win over Real Madrid on Dec. 10, moving the Spanish champions above their fierce rivals to the top of La Liga.
Al Sadd beat Tunisia’s Esperance 2-1 in the weekend quarterfinals to earn a crack at Barça, although the team’s game plan appears to be damage limitation.
“We have to try our best,” said Koni. “We came here to learn. Realistically we only have a 10 percent chance of beating Barcelona. When they play us, they have to play slowly.”
Al Sadd defender Nadir Belhadj also appeared in a quandary about stopping Barça’s Argentine wizard Lionel Messi.
“Messi and Barça are on another planet,” the Algerian told FIFA.com. “It’s possible to guess what Messi is going to do but actually stopping him from doing it is another matter.”
Even Brazil’s much-coveted striker Neymar said facing Barça in the final on Sunday would be a daunting prospect.
“I don’t think there are any particular tactics you use against Barcelona,” shrugged the 19-year-old pin-up. “You just have to pray, ask for God’s help and give it your best shot.”
Meanwhile, Andres Iniesta is eager for another chance to erase the memories of his team’s defeat five years ago at the Club World Cup and finally lift one of the few trophies he has yet to win.
Iniesta was a member of the Barcelona team that lost to Internacional at the 2006 Club World Cup. His team returned to win the title in Abu Dhabi in 2009 but the 27-year-old midfielder was injured and didn’t play in the final when the Spanish giants beat Argentina side Estudiantes.
“We have to learn from the lessons of five years ago,” Iniesta said yesterday. “It’s very important to me to win this tournament.”
Barcelona is looking to extend a four-year winning streak for European clubs, and Al-Sadd will be the clear underdog despite having spent large sums to strengthen the squad with players like former Galatasaray and Lyon ace Kader Keita, former Marseille and Fenerbahçe striker Mamadou Niang and Brazilian striker Leandro, who is familiar with Japanese conditions after several years in the J-League.
Iniesta said the Asian champions aren’t to be taken lightly.
“I watched the game against the African champions,” Iniesta said. “They play a tough, physical game and I have a lot of respect for them because they are Asian champions.”
Coach Pep Guardiola said his side has passed the El Clasico victory.
“Madrid is in the past,” Guardiola said. “We are now focused on the match against Al-Sadd and will do whatever is possible to reach the final.” The Club World Cup is back in Japan for the first time since 2008 after two editions in the United Arab Emirates.
Compiled from Reuters and AP reports by the Daily News staff