By Sports Reporter/Doha
After a long preseason, the QNB Stars League returns to action on Friday evening with all 12 sides in the league looking to make a positive start to the season ahead.
The first match of the season will see Al Gharafa, who are now under the leadership of former Al Khor coach Jean Fernandez, take on Al Ahli who will be managed by veteran Spanish coach Joaquín Caparrós making his first foray outside Europe.
Last season, Al Ahli surprised Al Gharafa with a 4-2 win on opening day, and Caparrós will certainly be aiming for more of the same with his new charges.
Umm Salal take on Al Kharaitiyat in the second game of the season, and both sides will be looking to continue their good form in which they ended the last campaign. Both clubs have also elected to stick with their coaches for the new campaign in Mahmoud Jaber for the Orange Fortress and Ahmad al-Ajalni for the Thunders.
Both sides will be hoping that their playmakers can start the season strongly, with Umm Salal turning to Syrian international Mahmoud al-Mawas and Kharaitiyat hoping that Moroccan playmaker Anouar Diba can pull the strings for their sides.
Friday’s QSL action will conclude when the newly formed Al Duhail meet promoted Qatar SC at Duhail stadium. Both Lekhwiya and El Jaish merged in the summer to form Duahil, and have a readymade squad to challenge for the QNB Stars League crown.
Head coach Djamel Belmadi will be hoping that defender Lucas Mendes will be able to bring defensive stability to the new side. As for Qatar SC, they have hired experienced coach Gabriel Calderón who has worked extensively in the region. The Argentinean will have to use all his knowledge to produce a shock result against Al Duhail.
Saturday will see three games take place. First up will see newly promoted Al Markhiya will take on last season’s Qatar Cup winners Al Sadd, in what promises to be a stern test for Yusef Adam and his inexperienced side.
Understandably the side has undergone plenty of changes in the professional ranks, and Adam will be hoping that Burkina Faso international Alain Traoré can hit the ground running for his new team. Al Sadd, meanwhile, are primed for a title push in what will be playmaker Xavi’s last ever season as a professional footballer.
Later on in the evening Al Arabi take on Al Sailya in what promises to be an interesting game for the much changed Arabi team. New coach Kais Yâakoubi will be aiming to start strongly and will be putting plenty of faith in new signing Ibrahim Khalfan who is returning to his childhood club.
As for Al Sailiya, they have elected to stick with the majority of their squad for this season. However, Nadir Belhadj, formally of Al Sadd, has returned to the QNB Stars League and will be raring to go to make a positive impact with his new side.
The final match of the round will see Al Khor take on title challengers Al Rayyan. The Knights have turned to French coach Laurent Banide to guide the side this term, and after a couple of years battling relegation they will be hoping for a positive start to the campaign against Rayyan.
Al Rayyan have strengthened significantly in the close season. Moroccan striker Abdulrazak Hamdullah is the most eye-catching signing of the summer and will be charged with firing Rayyan to title glory.
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