Al Gharafa, Al Rayyan set for exciting duel
Duhail look to improve as they take on Arabi in QSL second round.
The first-round clashes revealed a lot about preparations, strengths, weaknesses and ambitions, but these are still early days for teams in the Qatar Stars League. An interesting mix of contests await in the second week, with the clubs looking to either build on the momentum or work on the mistakes that were obvious in the first round.
Al Wakrah kick off the programme with a match against Qatar Sports Club on Thursday at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al Sadd, but the fixture that may evoke more interest on the same day could be the one between Duhail Sports Club and Al Arabi at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah.
Friday’s second match between Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa is also expected to be a close contest.
Champions Al Sadd, back from their AFC Champions League defeat to Al Nassr in Riyadh, take the field on Saturday. They will play Al Shahania, who are looking to bounce back after losing to Gharafa.
Duhail, the runners-up last season, had a tough initiation to the season when they really had to struggle against Qatar Sports Club. Only in the final few minutes did they ensure full points, much to the relief of their coach Rui Faria.
Duhail missed a couple of key players, including defender Luis Martin and Assim Madibo, due to suspension and they are expected to return for the game against Arabi.
“The absence of key players will affect any team and that’s what happened to us in our game against Qatar SC. The emergence of new players is definitely a positive sign, but that alone won’t compensate for seniors’ absence,” said the Portuguese. “We were able to score from the opportunities we had. Otherwise it would’ve been a different scenario.”
“We need to raise our performance, not to show our fans but to prove to ourselves that we’re better. We need to beat Gharafa.”
Diego Aguirre, Al Rayyan coach
Yussef Msakni, coming on as substitute, and Almoez Ali struck Duhail’s goals, but the team will be worried about the form of Mohanad Ali, who arrived with a lot of hype from Iraq. The striker is yet to find the net in four matches. Faria admitted he was under pressure.
“I would say he’s under pressure, especially because he’s in media focus. He needs more time to adapt. He works well in training and I know he’ll soon settle into his stride,” said Faria.
Arabi impressed with their style of play, with crosses from the wings dismantling the Al Ahli defence. Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said Duhail would pose a different challenge.
“They might not have started well but they’ve outstanding players,” said Hallgrimsson.
The top billing in Friday’s fixtures goes to the Al Rayyan vs Al Gharafa clash, with Rayyan coach Diego Aguirre coming under the spotlight.
The Urguayan, who is at Rayyan on a second stint, had been in charge of Gharafa during 2014.
“There’ve been lot of changes in Al Gharafa. I’ve good memories and relationship with the team, but this’s football. Now I’m with Al Rayyan and therefore, I’ll play to win,” said Aguirre.
Al Rayyan supporters were in for a disappointment in the first round when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Umm Salal.
“We need to raise our performance, not to show our fans but to prove to ourselves that we’re better. We need to beat Gharafa,” said the Uruguayan.
Al Khor and Umm Salal meet in the early kick-off on Friday in what should be an exciting duel. Both the teams impressed in the opening round, with Khor revealing a power-packed forward line that could trouble Umm Salal.
In Saturday’s first game, Al Ahli, handily beaten by Arabi, meet Al Sailiya. Sami Trabelsi’s men too are in the hunt for a win after drawing their match against Al Khor.
“We’re yet to settle down,” admitted Trablesi. “We’ve 6-7 new players and are focused on correcting our mistakes.