Xavi urges Al Sadd to play without pressure against Monterrey
Doha, Qatar: Qatari champions Al Sadd were nowhere near their best against Hienghène Sport, missing plenty of chances and allowing the modest side from New Caledonia too much of space in their own half, and had to battle for 120 minutes to sneak through to the quarterfinals.
Their next rivals, CF Monterrey from Mexico, are a tough team but coach Xavi Hernandez says that now that the pressure is off, Sadd will be able to take out their free-flowing football on Saturday.
"It's a big game for us, we want to compete, we want to reach the semifinal, but we have in front of us, a very good team," said Xavi at the pre-match press conference.
"Monterrey are an unbelievable team, they are working really well especially with this new coach Antonio Mohamed. It will be very tough, very difficult but at least we want to compete.
"In football, we never know what happens but we want to play very well, to show everybody our level. We want to play without pressure because the other day we felt too much pressure. But now it's different. I think they are the favourites and it means we don't have too much pressure now. We will play to win."
Sadd missed plenty of chances against Hienghène to put themselves under pressure and Xavi said he has full confidence in the team.
"If you are making mistakes again and again your confidence is going down. So I try to say to them I trust them a lot, they have many capacities. We played well against Hienghène but its part of the game that we also need to score.
"Sometimes if you are under pressure it's much more difficult to play football. So I try to say to them just enjoy and play football, I think this is the way," said Xavi, adding that such is his confidence in the team that he had thoughts about meeting Liverpool in the semifinal.
For that to happen though, Sadd need to be at their best.
They have shown in recent past that they can play relentless attacking football, as they did against Al Nassr and Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League knock out rounds and the Wolves need another of those performances tomorrow to beat the Mexicans, whom Xavi had said were tough warriors.
Monterrey themselves have lofty ambitions from the tournament.
"We will do our best to go as far as possible," said Monterrey coach Mohamed.
"We are fully prepared. We have adapted to the weather conditions in Qatar, we have the talent and desire and we dream about reaching the final," said Mohamed.
The 49-year old Argentinian said they needed to take advantage of the setpieces and make full use of the space.
Meanwhile new AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal will be high on confidence as they take on Esperance de Tunis.
"After winning the AFC Champions League, we are full of motivation and confidence, said Al Hilal coach Razvan Lucescu.
"It's true that experience is very important at this level, but at the same time, enthusiasm and motivation are also very important.
Frenchman Bafetimbi Gomis, Peruvian Andre Carrillo and Italian Sebastian Giovinco are the key players for Hilal, but they also have a number of talented Saudi Arabian internationals, and Lucescu, who was with Al Jaish in Qatar, said they were ready to meet the Tunisians.
"Esperance are a physical team with talented players in midfield and attack. But we also have a lot of quality. We're waiting for this game," said Lucescu
Esperance will have plenty of support in Doha and coach Moin Chaabani said they were ready for Hilal.
"Al Hilal are a well-respected team. They have top players and very talented strikers.
"This is the second time for us at the Club World Cup. We did not do well last time but this time, we're more focused," said Chaabani.