Meet Al Rayyan SC, one of FC Goa’s opponents in the upcoming AFC Champions League
FC Goa will kick off their 2021 AFC Champions League Group E (West Region) campaign against Al Rayyan SC on April 14. The second match between the two sides will be played on April 26. For the first time in history, an Indian club will feature in the group stage of the prestigious competition. The Gaurs earned this honour after topping the league stage of the 2019-20 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). It may be noted that all Group E matches will be played in Goa. As far as Al Rayyan are concerned, the Qatari club was founded in 1967 after a merger with Al Nusoor. Here is the lowdown on the club, some key players as well as the head coach.
Nickname: The Lions
Home Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium
Al Rayyan play in the Qatar Stars League. They were a big force in their early years. Not so much in recent years though. To date, they have won the top-flight trophy eight times, and their last title came in the 2015-16 season, which was also their first in 21 years. Al Rayyan SC qualified for the AFC Champions League after finishing second in the league in 2019-20. Among their other domestic achievements, the Lions have won the Qatar Crown Prince Cup four times and the Emir of Qatar Cup six times. Their record in the AFC Champions League is less impressive though -- they have made nine appearances but are yet to go past the group stage. Their last appearance came in the 2019 edition of the competition.
Yacine Brahimi (Winger)
Yacine Brahimi has had a formidable career in European top-flight football. He was a regular for Portuguese club FC Porto for many years and also featured in a lot of UEFA Champions League matches for them. Brahimi finished his first season at Al Rayyan SC (2019-20) as the league’s joint-top goalscorer with 15 goals and also bagged five assists. Brahimi has 56 caps for the Algerian national team as well and won the 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations with them.
Yohan Boli (Forward)
27-year-old Yohan Boli has been a vital player for Al Rayyan SC this season. As of now, the Ivorian has scored 11 goals in 21 matches for the Lions in the ongoing Qatar Stars League. He also has three assists to his name. Boli is yet to make an impact with Ivory Coast though. His club form recently earned him a recall to the national team and he featured in Africa Cup of Nations qualification matches against Niger and Ethiopia.
Head coach: Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc has had a long and distinguished career as a player as well as a head coach. In his playing days, he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup with France. He also featured for big clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan. As a head coach, the 55-year-old has won the Ligue 1 trophy four times, thrice with Paris Saint Germain and once with Bordeaux. He was also in charge of the French national team during the 2012 Euro. In his first season with Al Rayyan SC, Blanc has a lot of expectations to live up to.