Grateful Al Wahda boss Henk ten Cate is convinced ultimate predator Sebastian Tagliabue’s ability to net “anytime and anyplace” can fire his club past Qatar’s Al Rayyan and onto the cusp of a first knockout-stage run in the AFC Champions League for more than a decade.
A valuable come-from-behind 2-1 triumph last time out at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium – dramatically earned by Brazilian forward Leonardo in second-half injury time – against the same opponent propelled the Clarets top of Group B at the halfway stage.
Key to renewed hope of advancing for the first time since 2007’s charge into the semi-finals is their aforementioned Argentine striker. The evergreen 33-year-old has 21 goals in 21 Arabian Gulf League matches this term, netted the leveller in Doha a fortnight ago and struck in November 2017’s 5-1 rout when the clubs last met in the capital.
“We have the best players in the front line and we have Tigali [Tagliabue’s nickname] who can score anytime and anyplace with the smallest of chances,” said Ten Cate, whose charges sit fifth in the UAE’s top flight. “I feel very confident that we will play a good game.”
Rayyan finished a distant fourth in the Qatar Stars League after a turbulent campaign. Avoiding defeat in Abu Dhabi is now a must for Group B’s third-placed side.
“Al Rayyan is a good team and they have a great team of players,” said Ten Cate.
“For them, this is the last chance to come back to compete in this group, and for us it is a great opportunity to take another step towards qualifying.”
Rayyan’s Venezuela centre forward Gelmin Rivas scored 13 times from 26 matches in a solitary AGL season at Sharjah in 2016/17.
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