FC Goa kick off their AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign on Wednesday, 14th April, against Qatari outfit Al-Rayyan SC. This is going to be the first time that an Indian club will participate in the group stages of the premier continental competition which is why expectations are at an all-time high. Ahead of the much anticipated clash, we present to you all that you need to know about our first opponents as FC Goa and Indian football embark on this new and hopefully fruitful journey.
What is the nickname of Al-Rayyan SC?
Founded in 1967, they are also referred to as The Lions by local supporters.
What other sports are they actively involved in?
The club is also involved in sports like basketball, volleyball, handball, athletics, table tennis and swimming.
What is the name of their stadium?
Inaugurated in 2003, their home facility is called the Ahmed bin Ali stadium.
What is the history of the club like?
The club was established following a merger between Old Al Rayyan and Al Nusoor, a local club in the city of Al-Rayyan. They won their first league title in 1976 which preceded their most dominant spell. They have seen ebbs and flows since, but are now one of the prominent Qatari teams.
How prominent are they in Qatar?
They play in the Qatar Stars League and although they were a big force during their initial years, they have been inconsistent ever since. They have won the first division in the country 8 times and after a trophy-less spell of 21 years, lifted the league trophy in the 2015-16 season.
What unusual feat did Al-Rayyan achieve in 1984?
The side became the only team in the country's history to win the league with a negative goal difference in the 1983-84 season, an absolutely incredible feat.
Who is their current head coach?
Their current head coach is former France national team, Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux manager and French World Cup winner Laurent Blanc. The 55-year-old has accepted working at the Qatari outfit as a different kind of challenge to further add to his already illustrious playing and coaching career. He comes with a pedigree of winning four Ligue 1 titles and replaced Uruguayan Diego Aguirre to take charge of the club just last December.
Which are the Al-Rayyan players to look out for?
The first name that European football fans will recognize is that of Yacine Brahimi. The former FC Porto winger joined the club in 2019 and the Algerian finished his first season as the joint-top goalscorer with 15 goals and 5 assists. Then there is Yohan Boli. The Ivorian attacker has scored 11 goals in their current campaign and is one of their main threats.
How did they fare in their domestic league this season?
In the 2019-20 season, the club finished second, thereby qualifying for the group stages of the ACL. This season though, they dropped to finish 3rd in the table with 10 wins in 22 games and will therefore have to play the ACL qualifiers next year.
How is their previous record in the AFC Champions League?
The club has been somewhat regular in the Champions League. They have featured 9 times in the competition but haven't made it past the group stages even once. The last time they qualified for the ACL was a couple of years ago in 2019.