Spotlight on Duhail-Rayyan clash as QSL resumes
Two former champions have plenty to play for in Sunday’s big game; Al Khor-Al Ahli to kick off third round on Friday.
A heavyweight clash between Duhail Sports Club and Al Rayyan will highlight the third round action in the Qatar Stars League as it resumes on Friday.
The 12-day international break has allowed the teams to ponder over their results in the first two rounds. While many teams had their players away on national duties, the coaching staff were at work charting out future plans.
League leaders Al Sadd, the only team to have a clean record so far, had the maximum number of players on national duty. And with the AFC Champions League quarterfinal second-leg against Al Nassr scheduled for Monday, they will not be in action till September 24.
The third round kicks off with a match between Al Khor and Al Ahli on Friday, but the Duhail-Rayyan clash on Sunday will be the pick of the week for more than one reason.
Duhail, with four points, have not really taken off the way they would have liked to. They could not find their customary rhythm at the start of the league due to injuries and suspensions. Rui Faria’s men were lucky to earn full points against Qatar SC in their opener. They then stuttered against Al Arabi and were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
With only a handful of players away on national duty, Faria would have had enough time to work on combinations and strategies to make a strong push from the third round onwards. But it will not be easy as Rayyan, backed by a strong support base, also have similar ideas.
Two draws from two games have put Rayyan coach Diego Aguirre under some pressure. The absence of a genuine striker is hurting him. Aguirre conceded it will be a tough match at the Al Janoub Stadium in Wakrah on Sunday.
“It’ll be a very difficult match. Duhail are one of the best teams around, but I’m confident my players will rise to the occasion,” said Aguirre.
He discounted the notion that the players would be under pressure after two draws.
“There isn’t much pressure. We know that if we work hard every day, things will improve,” he added.
Friday’s Al Khor-Al Ahli match, also at the Al Janoub Stadium, demands attention thanks to the improvement made by Al Khor. The Omar Najhi-coached outfit are fifth with four points from two games. They have some fine attacking talent in Tiago Bezerra and Ahmed Hammoudan, whose power-packed runs can threaten any defence.
Umm Salal’s clash against Al Arabi, also on the same day at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, evokes much interest thanks to the teams’ contrasting styles of play. Al Arabi’s long-ball tactics, with crosses flying from the flanks, have brought some variety to the league. Heimir Hallgrimson’s men demolished Al Ahli in the first match with that approach and then held Duhail to a 1-1 draw, showing plenty of fighting spirit.
Umm Salal have poor returns to show for after two rounds, with just one point in their kitty. Hallgrimson felt they deserved more, but stressed that his team would be wary of their rivals’ abilities.
“They were really unlucky and should’ve had six points. And we respect them. But we know where we are, where we want to go and how to get there,” he said.
Elsewhere, promoted team Al Wakrah start favourites against Al Shahania on Saturday. Wakrah began their campaign on a losing note, going down to Al Sadd, but then bounced back in style to defeat Qatar SC. Shahania are yet to open their account.
Also looking for their first point are Qatar SC. The Kings were unlucky not to gain at least one point from their match against Duhail. They also missed a couple of chances against Wakrah to go down 0-2. Al Gharafa, on four points, may prove a bit too strong for them on Saturday, as the Cheetahs arrive on the back of a 3-0 win against Al Shahania.