Plenty at stake as Al Sadd take on Duhail SC in QSL
Wolves look to maintain their supremacy over Red Knights; confident Al Rayyan take on Al Sailiya.
Al Sadd and Duhail Sports Club have met in three games of varying intensity this season. Sadd have had the better of these exchanges, winning two and drawing the other. Smarting from those setbacks, Duhail will get a chance to alter the record when the teams meet for the first time in the Qatar Stars League this season on Saturday.
No clash in the league’s ninth round holds as much significance as the jostle between two outfits who have won the title 20 times in total – Sadd being winners on 14 occasions and Duhail six. To be played at Duhail’s home venue, it will be the last match of the ninth round and will reveal a lot on where the teams stand in terms of fulfilling their title aspirations.
Heading into the match, Sadd have the bragging rights, thanks to their wins early in the season over Duhail. The teams drew 1-1 in the AFC Champions League round of 16 first leg before Sadd won through, claiming the second leg 3-1. The Wolves also claimed a 1-0 win in the Sheikh Jassim Cup, with Duhail beginning to look a bit ragged by the end of these draining tussles.
The struggle was apparent in the early part of the league when injuries also took their toll but surprisingly, after eight rounds, Duhail are not only unbeaten, but are right on top of the standings.
Under coach Rui Faria, they have shown an inclination to fight it out in tough situations and that has been their biggest asset. The team is coming together as an effective combination and if they can replicate the second-half performance against Al Gharafa last week, Sadd will not have it easy. Duhail’s defence is much tighter now and with Youssuf Msakni, Muhammad Muntari, Edmilson and Almoez Ali creating the attacks, Duhail are a potent force, as their 20 points show.
Sadd, placed third with 15 points, have some catching up to do, thanks to their AFC Champions League engagements. They have two games on hand and having exited from the continental stage, they can apply their focus back on QSL, before starting their preparations for the Club World Cup.
Balancing the continental commitments have proved to be difficult for Xavi Hernandez’s men. But the fight they showed in the Champions League semifinal second leg against Al Hilal was really inspirational and could carry them past any hurdle in the QSL. Their last win against Al Ahli in the previous round was well-earned, as they missed the services of midfield turbo Nam Tae-Hee.
Nam, hit by an illness, is expected to be back against his old team on Saturday and the likes of Akram Afif, Baghdad Bounedjah and Hassan Al Haydos will welcome his ebullient presence and the ability to create openings. Duhail will have to be wary of the South Korean if they are to protect their record and stay ahead in the race. With plenty at stake for both teams, a real humdinger is on the cards, come Friday.
Qatar Sports Club open the ninth round with a clash against Al Shahania, followed by Al Rayyan’s match against Al Sailiya. Rayyan, also unbeaten, are second with 18 points and they should be able to take Sailiya in their stride, especially with Yacine Brahimi and Rodrigo Tabata in fine form.
Umm Salal, under new coach Ahmed El Abyad, have a chance to reverse their recent slide when they meet Al Ahli on Friday while Al Arabi too will be eager to bounce back from two straight defeats when they play Al Wakrah. Al Gharafa, beaten by Duhail last week, take on Al Khor in Saturday’s first game.