The top two teams of Group C go head to head as Qatar host China in a big World Cup Qualifier on Thursday.
Qatar are currently the leaders of Group C, with a perfect nine points from three matches, while China are a couple of points behind. The latter will know they can grab top spot from Qatar with a victory on Thursday, while the former will target a win to firm their grip in Group C, making this a mouthwatering clash in Doha.
China are coming off a comfortable 3-0 win over Maldives last month, while the same cannot be said of Qatar, who had to hold on by their fingernails against Hong Kong.
Leading 3-0 and seemingly cruising, Hong Kong scored two goals in quick succession to quicken everyone's pulses, only to fall just short. Hong Kong, who held China to a goalless draw last month, also have seven points from three matches.
"We fully took the advantage by going into a three-goal lead and then Hong Kong tried to fight back as they had nothing to lose," Qatar manager Jose Carreno was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post after the narrow win. "I would not mind if we finish the remaining matches all with a 3-2 win."
The high-voltage clash between Qatar and China has been overshadowed a little by a bizarre problem of air conditioning, with the Chinese saying they only found out that the stadium would be cooled after arriving in Doha. China had spent time in Dubai to acclimatise to the heat.
"If we knew about the air conditioning before the game, maybe we would have stayed in China rather than gone to Dubai," China manager Alain Perrin said.
What is of no doubt, though, is the magnitude of this 2018 World Cup qualifier. "This is going to be a very important match but there are other remaining matches and we will need to do our best," Carreno said.
"I think these are the two best teams in the group and we are playing for first position but second can also give us qualification," Perrin added.
Where to Watch Live
China vs Qatar is set to begin at 6.30 pm local time (9 pm IST, 11.30 pm CST). There is no live coverage in India, but the match will be shown live in the Middle East and North Africa on Bein Sports Arabia, with the live streaming option on Bein Sports Connect.
CCTV 5 and PPTV Sport will show the World Cup qualifier live in China.