Al Gharafa ready for Pakhtakor


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Al Gharafa, placed sixth in the QNB Stars League standings, will have their task cut out when they host Uzbekistan side Pakhtakor in the AFC Champions League one-off play-off on Tuesday. The kick-off is at 20:00.

If Al Gharafa win, they will be clubbed in Group A, which also comprises the UAE’s Al Jazira, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli and Iran’s Tractorsasi.

Qualifying for the tournament proper after a gap of many seasons, if it happens, will surely delight The Cheetahs’ fans. In fact, Al Gharafa ended their title drought of five seasons only recently when they lifted the QSL Cup, defeating Al Rayyan in the final.

Turkish coach Bulent Uygun, who replaced Frenchman Jean Fernandez before the start of QNB Stars League’s second phase, is intensely putting his wards through their paces ahead of the game.

Al Gharafa had strengthened the squad in the January transfer window by roping in Dutch midfield great Wesley Sneijder and Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi, also keeping in mind the premier Asian competition.

Qatar’s Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan had qualified directly for the group stage.

Members of the Pakhtakor squad, who reached Doha on Saturday, are also training in earnest.