The two sides will face off on 14th April.

2021 AFC Champions League will be reaching a historic kick-off this month, as for the first time, FC Goa – an Indian side will feature in the league. Representing India, any statement the Gaurs make in the continental league would reflect on the Indian Super League and the work they have done to improve the football within the nation. FC Goa have been named as host and placed in Group E alongside Iranian side Persepolis and Qatari side Al-Rayyan, with either Al-Wahda or Al-Zawraa making up the fourth spot.

We take a comprehensive analysis of Al-Rayyan, one of the three potential threats that FC Goa would have to overcome to make it to the knockout stages of the competition.

History

Founded in 1967, Al-Rayyan is one of the prominent clubs from AFC Asian Cup winners Qatar. They are the eight-time league winners most recently acquiring the coveted championship in the 2015-16 season. However, despite their decent domestic record, they haven’t made an impact in the continental stage like their rivals Al-Duhail or Al-Sadd.

2020 AFC Champions League

Al-Rayyan made it to the playoffs round in the 2020 AFC Champions League, but unfortunately had to succumb to Iranian side Esteghlal Tehran FC losing 5-0. They have achieved direct qualification for this year’s competition and will be looking to make it count.

League Standings

The 2019-20 season was a strong season for Al-Rayyan. They put up a brilliant fight for the title in all honesty, but came up short by a single point.  However, 2020-21 saw a tough start from the runners-up, loitering around the middle of the pack before a managerial change that saw Laurent Blanc come in. Blanc has since propelled the team into third and despite Al-Sadd being crowned as champions, Al-Rayyan could finish as high as second. They will be heading into the AFC Champions League with a rejuvenated vigour and newfound energy.

Manager

Laurent Blanc
Former PSG manager Laurent Blanc will lead the Al-Rayyan against FC Goa in the AFC Champions League

Laurent Blanc is a well-known player and manager who is looking to lead Al-Rayyan to their first league title in five years. Blanc, a former player at Manchester United had previous managerial spells at Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain, while also being at the helm of the French National Team during the 2012 Euros. He had won the Ligue 1 trophy four times, thrice with PSG and once with Bordeaux.

He would be leading the team in the AFC Champions League this season. In his first season at the club, the Frenchman had managed to lead his team to the third place behind league-winners Al-Sadd and second placed Al-Duhail, with three matches remaining.

Key Players

1. Yacine Brahimi

Yacine Brahimi
Yacine Brahimi is known for his exploits in Europe with FC Porto

Any follower of European football will immediately recognize Yacine Brahimi. The talismanic striker was a strong forward presence for the Portuguese outfit FC Porto, which saw him featured in several European nights. In his first season for the club, he finished as the joint-top scorer in the league notching 15 goals as well as five crucial assists as his side finished one point off the top of the league. He has regressed a bit this season, but the Al-Rayyan captain can be expected to fire on all cylinders come the moment and add to his tally of five goals when he kits up in the ACL.

2. Yohan Boli

If Brahimi was last year’s impact-maker, Boli is this year’s. The 27-year-old from Ivory Coast has been vital for Al-Rayyan and Laurent Blanc this year, as his performances have helped propel the team into third place, despite loitering around the mid-table for majority of the campaign. He has scored 10 goals this season, becoming Al-Rayyan SC’s top scorer in the process. Expect him to make life difficult for FC Goa duo James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez on continental nights.

3. Fahad Younes

A solid pair of hands, Fahad Younes will be facing the unloved task of dealing with the lethal and prolific Igor Angulo. The 26-year-old led the league in clean sheets in 2019-20 season and is in good form currently despite Al-Rayyan’s early season troubles. He will be a big factor during the Champions League and will be aiming to shut the FC Goa strikers down.

What’s at stake for FC Goa

FC Goa boss Juan Ferrando will have his task cut out against Al-Rayyan. Up against another solid tactician in Laurent Blanc, Ferrando will need all his pieces to be functioning at their highest potential to glean something out of the tie against the Qatari side. Talent wise, Al-Rayyan, hailing from the Asian Cup-winning nation, have the definite upside. Ferrando should aim to exploit the tiniest chinks in the armour and utilize that to the best extent possible. The likes of Donachie and Gonzalez as well as Savior Gama and Seriton Fernandes need to be at their very best when coming up against the likes of Boli and Brahimi. The choice of goalkeeper would also be crucial as any mistakes will be punished mercilessly by the opposition.

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