Doha: Al Gharafa coach Jean Fernandez has called for patience from fans as his side begin their campaign in the QNB Stars League with a match against Al Ahli tomorrow.
The seven-times champions have struggled to keep pace with the big guns since 2010 when they won the title last, finishing three points ahead of Al Sadd in the standings.
Last year they finished in fifth place, dropping out of contention for a spot in the lucrative Asian Champions League.
The new season, therefore, brings new hope with Fernandez taking charge of the team who played last season under two coaches, Pedro Caixinha and Habib Sadeq.
“We have played plenty of games this preseason, and have trained well. It is now down to the players to show what we have worked on and I hope we can have a strong opening game,” Frenchman Fernandez said.
“I feel that we can have a special team at Al Gharafa with the players that we have. Now I feel that we need some time to get used to the season, and after a few games we can see if we are capable of challenging at the top of the table.”
Summer signing Luis Jiminez talked up the potential of the young players in the Cheetahs’ ranks.
“From what I have seen in preseason we have a young team with plenty of individual talent. Now we need to come together and show what we can do this season. I have every confidence that Al Gharafa can do well this season.”
As for Al Ahli, they also have a new coach in the form of vastly experienced Joaquín Caparrós who will be managing in the GCC for the first ever time. The Spaniard is raring to go for his new side, hoping to make a good personal impression.
“I am glad to be working in the QNB Stars League with Al Ahli. Qatar has had many great Spanish players in the past, and I hope we can win trophies at this great club,” noted Caparrós.
The vastly experienced Caparrós mirrored the views of his Al Gharafa counterpart, insisting that fans have to be patient with Al Ahli.
“I personally take each game as it comes. On Friday we have a real challenge against a tough Al Gharafa side, but I have real faith that my players can perform and come away with a positive result.” Al Ahli defender John Benson concluded the press conference with a rallying call for his side.
“We all know how good Al Gharafa are in Qatar. This is an ideal match to show what we can do, and we are fully ready for the match..”
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