Al Rayyan, Al Gharafa set for tough contests in AFC Champions League Play-off
Doha: Qatar’s Al Rayyan and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Saipa will square off in the 2019 AFC Champions League Play-off round at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday eager to seal a place in the group stage.
Al Rayyan have made eight appearances in the competition but have yet to make it beyond the group stage and suffered a familiar fate in 2018 despite being unbeaten and in a strong position after their first four games.
Domestically they sit third in the QNB Stars League after a 3-1 victory over Al Arabi on Thursday, but they remain some distance behind the front two of Al Sadd and Al Duhail.
Saipa, meanwhile, have only once qualified for the Continental competition, back in 2008 when they reached the quarter-finals before defeat to a Bunyodkor side that featured Brazilian FIFA World Cup winner Rivaldo.
In another matchup, Al Gharafa will welcome Iranian side Zobahan to Thani bin Jassim Stadium in the 2019 AFC Champions League Play-off round on Tuesday with both sides seeking a place in the group stage.
After finishing fourth in the QNB Stars League last year, Al Gharafa currently languish in the bottom half of the table after defeat to Umm Salal last week, and they will be without injured Dutchman Wesley Sneijder for the clash.
Al Gharafa qualified for the competition eight times, with a quarter-final appearance in 2010 their best performance, while they also reached the last 16 in 2013. Last year they were unlucky to be eliminated at the group stage by virtue of an inferior head-to-head record against the United Arab Emirates’ Al Jazira.
Zobahan finished the 2017-18 Iranian Pro League season as runners-up but are enduring a miserable campaign this time round and are sitting dangerously near the relegation zone having not won a game since August. They needed extra time to overcome Kuwait SC 1-0 in Preliminary Stage 2.