Panaji: They are not exactly the favourites, but India's Champion club Dempo claim to be well-prepared to take on the challenge of Qatari giants Al Sadd when they both lock horns in the AFC Champions League play-off to be held in Qatar on Saturday.
"We take a lot of pride in in the fact that our club has qualified to play in the AFC champions League play-off match against Al Sadd (Qatar) and the boys are prepared to give their best to ensure that the team gets a favourable result," said a confident Dempo's coach Armando Colaco at a pre-match press conference held at the Sheikh Jassem bin Hamad Stadium.
"We have come here to gain experience and playing against a quality team like Al Sadd will allow the Dempo team to test itself against a worthy team from Qatar. I have always maintained that having come this far in the competition, the boys are prepared to give their best and take home the sweet memories and the invaluable experience they would be gaining out of such matches.
"Dempos have always approached football in the most professional way possible and our Club Chairman Shrinivas Dempo being young and enthusiastic person, has always backed the team to do well and hence we are very keen to make a mark in the play-off match and give our best to seek qualification into the main draw of the competition," stated Colaco.
He said that things are expected to be tough in the match not only because Al Sadd would be playing in front of their home supporters, but also because of the fact that they have already beaten Syrian club Al Ittihad 5-1 coming into tomorrow's encounter.
"But in spite of that Dempos are prepared to take on the challenge as we know history is in the making for us should we qualify, as Dempo SC will then become the first Indian club to make it to the group stage of AFC Champions League," reminded Colaco.
Dempo had become the first Indian club to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Cup in 2008 and had also played the quarter-final play-off against Kuwait SC in Kuwait City in May 2009, before bowing out.
"Six of our players have played here in the Asia Cup and their experience will be of good use for our team. Last time we played in the AFC competition, we had only two foreigners, but this time we have four which forms a good combination.
"Brazilian Roberto Silva and Nigerian Ranty Martins will cast a good impression on Al Sadd, who boast of a strong combination of imports from Brazil and Ivory Coast," Colaco said.
Captain Ranti Martins also backed the Dempo to do well against Al Sadd tomorrow.
"We have done extremely well over the past few seasons both in India and in the AFC Cup, so the onus is on the players to get their act right and portray themselves as a competitive team against the Qatari opposition."
"We are aware that Al Sadd has Keita (Ivory Coast) and Leandro Da silva (Brazil) as their aggressive foreign duo will be upfront but we will put up a good performance and show that we are here to be competitive. It will definitely be a new challenge this time since it is a play-off for an AFC Champions League group berth," said Ranti.
Al Sadd coach Jorge Fossati of Uruguay wants to carry on with the same confidence his team displayed in the Al Ittihad game last Saturday.
"We are very eager to complete the match in 90 minutes and show our supremacy against Dempo. But complacency would be the last thing I expect from my boys," Fossati said.
"We need to respect our opposition and also be aware of what they could dish out tomorrow. I am not in the mood to take anything for granted. The Dempo match is very very important and I am sure the home support of the locals will see us through. Therefore I am expecting that we would win," the 58-year-old said at the pre-match briefing.
When asked whether he saw any practice videos of Dempo team, the Al Sadd coach replied in the negative.
"We haven't had the opportunity to see any videos of Dempo but our players have been informed to respect their rival on the field. My only philosophy in football is 'start to complete the match well'. Tomorrow's match begins at 5.50 pm local time which equates to 8.20 pm (Indian time)."
Since it is a play-off, both teams will play in extra time should there be a stalemate at the end of regulation time. Penalty shoot-out will only be employed in case the deadlock prevails even at the end of extra-time.
There is no provision for home and away in the play-off as per current AFC regulations. The winner qualifies for the Group stage of the AFC Champions League while the loser stands demoted to AFC Cup.
A sizeable Goan contingent residing in Doha is expected to attend the match to support and cheer Dempo SC.