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Xavi: The game against Al-Gharafa is like a final, we want to increase our lead at the top

Al-Sadd head coach Xavi Hernandez has stressed on the importance of his side’s upcoming QNB Stars League Round 9 game against Al-Gharafa, which is set to be played on Sunday at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Xavi said: “Everybody knows that Al-Gharafa is our next opponent, and in this moment, Al-Sadd and Al-Gharafa are the best teams in the QSL. It means that for us, it’s a final. We want to get three points, to keep this level and first position, and to increase the distance between us and the other clubs.”

“This is a great period for the club with the performance of the players, and I think it is a good moment for us to compete against Al-Gharafa.”

As for Al-Gharafa’s quality, Xavi said: “Al-Gharafa are a great team, with a very good coach – Jokanovic; he works really well and you can see Al-Gharafa’s numbers in the last one year and half. “

“It will be really difficult because they have a good squad, not only foreigner players but also Qatari players – for example, Homam, Ahmed Alaa, Othman, Moayad – they are doing really well.”

He added: “So it will be difficult and complicated but we are in our best moment since I became the coach here and we want to keep our level. We have in front of us, in my opinion, the best team in the competition right now, without counting Al-Sadd.”

“For us, it’s a final and I think for Al-Gharafa also. It will be tough and there will be tension. For sure, they will be aggressive, with the competition and rivalry between the clubs. So it’s like a clasico or a derby and it’s very important for us.”

Al-Sadd are currently on the top of the league table with a four-point lead over second-placed Al-Gharafa, and Xavi said: “In case we win, we will increase the difference (with Al-Gharafa) to 7 points. Maybe, with Al-Ahli it could be 6 points, and for Al-Rayyan and Al-Duhail 10 points.”

“So, this means that it’s a final for us, and we have to play like in the last game (against Al-Wakrah), with the same intensity.”

Asked about the team’s focus ahead of the Amir Cup final later this week, Xavi said: “I think there’s no excuse. We have time to recover. After this game, we will think about the final. I will tell the players to forget the final, we are only focusing on the league.”

He added: “In my opinion, it’s very important to win the league because in the last season, we didn’t do very well because we just finished in third place and we deserved much more. Now, we’re doing really well and we have time to think about the final, but this is not the moment.”

“We have another final, against Al-Gharafa and this is our reality now.”

Asked about the readiness of his players, the coach said: “We have two training sessions before the game, and I think Nam Tae-hee is okay. We have got Tarek Salman back and we now have a bigger squad to choose from. It’s difficult for me sometimes now to choose the players for the lineup. Everybody will be important and everybody will get minutes, and many players have been performing well.”

He concluded by saying: “The competition between the players is good, for the coach and for the club, to achieve results and win titles this season.”

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