Former 'Miracle of Istanbul' teammates lock horns in Riyadh

Forever connected by capturing the UEFA Champions League together at Liverpool, Igor Biscan and Steven Gerrard will settle into opposing dugouts this week in the Roshn Saudi League.

The former teammates at Anfield meet on Thursday night at the Al Shabab Club Stadium in Riyadh, where Biscan’s Al Shabab go head-to-head with Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq in one of the fixtures of the Matchweek 16.

The pair, now carving their careers as managers, shared five years together at Liverpool from 2000, a spell that included that memorable Champions League victory against AC Milan in Istanbul in May 2005.

Gerrard biscan celebrating Liverpool GettyImages-52984409

Nevertheless, Biscan, who was appointed as Al Shabab manager in October, says it is strictly business when familiar faces convene in the capital to guide their respective clubs to a much-needed RSL victory.

“It’s a big, important game for us, because of the points first and foremost,” said the Croat, whose Al Shabab go into the game sitting 12th in the table and without a win in three.

“The other things are always interesting – to see a former teammate, somebody like Steven – but we will not have too much time to enjoy ourselves because it’s an important game for both teams.

“We’re not really in a position to think about anything else apart from getting as many points as we can, as soon as we can. They have many more points than us in the table, but they are also not in a great period – in the last few games they have lost or didn’t win.”

Biscan, who replaced caretaker coach Juan Brown at Al Shabab following Marcel Keizer’s departure earlier in the season, lifted the Champions League trophy in the 2004-05 campaign – his final season with Liverpool.

He was critical of his current side after last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to Al Taawoun, when he said “a different team came out of the dressing room for the second half”.

Al Shabab had led through Yannick Carrasco’s delightful Panenka penalty that clipped the underside of the bar on its way into the net.
Al Ettifaq, meanwhile, sit seventh in the table, but are themselves on a run of four matches without victory.

However, Biscan warned: “They’re a tough team to play against and we need to prepare ourselves not only for one half, but for 90 minutes-plus. That’s the only way we can play and that’s the only way we can win any game in the future.”

Gerrard, meanwhile, was similarly disappointed with Al Ettifaq in Matchweek 15. The Dammam side were beaten 1-0 away to Al Ohkdood, bringing an end to a run of three successive draws.

“I apologise to our fans,” the former Liverpool captain said. “The performance was far from what we intended.”