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FC Goa AFC Champions League 2021 Rival Watch: Al-Rayyan SC

The month of April is a big one for Indian football fans as for the first time ever in history, an Indian football team will be taking part in the group stages of the AFC Champions League, the top tier competition of Asia.

FC Goa AFC Champions League 2021 Rival Watch: Al-Rayyan SC

FC Goa created history during the 2019-2020 season as they became the first team from India to qualify for Asia's top-tier tournament, the AFC Champions League after topping the league stage of the Indian Super League ahead of ATK (now ATK Mohun Bagan).

The team was coached by the current Mumbai City FC coach Sergio Lobera, but left the team before the playoffs and joined the 'Islanders'. The team was packed with superstars all over the field such as Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Coro. While the previous two followed the head coach to Mumbai City FC, Coro left the league, resulting in a big transition at the club with Juan Ferrando joining the team as the head coach and brought in players like Igor Angulo, Jorge Ortiz Mendoza, Alberto Noguera, Ivan Gonzalez to strengthen the team.

FC Goa was drawn into Group E along with Qatari team Al-Rayyan SC and last year's Champions League runners-up Persepolis FC, they will be joined by the winner of Al-Wahda and Al-Zawraa's qualifying match to be played on 7th April. So before they take the field against some of Asia's best this month, we take a look at who their opponents really are.

On 14th April, FC Goa will face off the Qatari side Al-Rayyan SC on their opening match of the competition.

Al-Rayyan SC is a Qatari side that was founded in 1967 as a merged entity of Old Al-Rayyan and Nusoor Club, and plays in the Qatar Stars League. It is a multisports club that has teams in Football, Futsal, Basketball, Volleyball, Handball and Athletics and more.

Al-Rayyan SC has won the Qatar Stars League 8 times, the most recent being the 2015-16 season, it was after 21 years of struggle and league title drought that they won the national league. It was in 1975-76 that they won their very first Qatar Stars League title.

This season, Al-Rayyan SC is currently placed in 3rd place in the league table behind defending champions Al-Sadd FC and Al-Duhail. In 20 matches, they have managed to gather only 34 points with 10 wins, 4 draws and 6 losses. With only 2 matches left, they stand no chances to overtake the two teams above them, meanwhile, teams behind them could still overtake them.

The Qatari side is being led by a former French International and former Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc. Laurent Blanc has had a glorious playing career starting at Montpellier. The centre-back has appeared more than 200 times for Montpellier in all competitions and has featured for various top-level teams such as Napoli, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Manchester United in his career.

He started his managerial career with French team FC Girondins Bordeaux, simply known as Bordeaux in 2007. He remained in charge of the team till 2010 and won various trophies. He then took over the French National Team job. After a successful career managing the national team, he joined French power-house Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 and remained there till 2016 and lifted several trophies. He then took a long break, and in 2020, he was approached by Al-Rayyan SC. He joined the Qatari side on December 19, 2020.

Now let's take a look at the key player of Al-Rayyan SC that FC Goa will have to go up against in the AFC Champions League clash between the two sides.

Yacine Brahimi

The biggest player to watch out for is the club captain and Algeria International Yacine Brahimi, who is valued at 10 million euros currently. If you have followed European football closely in the past, you must know Yacine Brahimi from his days at Granada CF and FC Porto. Brahimi was born in France and started his career at Montreuil in 1997. He also featured for Paris Saint-Germain and Stade Rennais FC youth team. He signed his first professional contract in 2007 with Rennes (Stade Rennais FC) and was put on the reserve squad that use to play in the 4th division of France.

In 2009, he joined Ligue 2 club Clermont Foot on loan. He made his senior debut for Rennes in 2010 and scored 4 goals in 22 appearances. He was loaned out to La Liga side Granada CF for the 2012-13 season with an option to buy for 4 million euro which they exercised and signed him permanently.

FC Porto paid Granada 6.4 Million euro to sign him. He appeared more than 140 times and scored near about 40 goals for them. He left the Portuguese side in 2019 to join Al-Rayyan. The Algeria International is more natural on the left-wing but can also operate as an attacking midfielder and as a centre-forward. He has scored 5 goals and has 2 assists to his name this season in 16 appearances, so FC Goa defenders will have to bring their best to stop him.

Yohan Boli

The next name that FC Goa need to be careful of is Ivory Coast International centre-forward Yohan Boli. Boli is mainly known for his stint with Belgian side Sint-Truiden where he made more than 100 appearances for the club and has 39 goals to his name.

The Ivory Coast forward is valued at 3.50 million euro. He joined Al-Rayyan SC on January 2020, the club paid a 3 million euro transfer fee to Sint-Truiden. In 19 appearances this season for the Qatari side, he has scored 10 goals and assisted 3 times. So along with Yacine Brahimi, Juan Ferrando will have to chalk out a plan for the forward too.

Gabriel Mercado

While the above two are forward players, Gabriel Mercado is a defender who can play in all four defensive positions. Mercado is an Argentine footballer valued at 1 million euro. The most notable club he has played for is La Liga side Sevilla FC from 2016 till 2019. He appeared 78 times for the La Liga club in which he has 5 goals to his name. It won't be easy for FC Goa forwards to go past the Argentine, and to make it even tougher, he will be joined by Al-Rayyan's Asian quota player Shoja Khalilzadeh at the backline.

So it won't be an easy task for FC Goa to get all 3 points from this match, but if every player gives their best, the Goan side can hope for at least 1 point from this match.

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