QSL big boys all set for action on Super Saturday
September 12 2014 11:32 PM
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Al Sadd coach Hussein Ammota (left), Lekhwiya coach Michael Laudrup (centre) and El Jaish coach Nabi
Al Sadd coach Hussein Ammota (left), Lekhwiya coach Michael Laudrup (centre) and El Jaish coach Nabil Maaloul.

It’s Super Saturday as all the big boys of Qatar Stars League are in action today. The top-five finishers of last season will be plying their trade today, looking to get back into groove after the two-week international break. The first lot of matches will see Al Wakrah take on Al Sadd and El Jaish tackle Al Arabi. The late start will see Lekhwiya meeting Al Gharafa and Qatar SC facing Al Sailiya.

Wakrah have had a mixed start so far, having lost against Jaish in the opening round and then winning against Al Shamal in the second. As for Sadd this will be only their second match because they missed their first match due to their AFC Champions League commitments.

Sadd were knocked out of the AFC quarter-finals by Al Hilal and seemed to carrying those bruises at the start of their match against Al Kharaitiyat. But the recovered strongly in the second half, from a goal down, to win 4-1.  

“The exit at the quarter-final stage of the AFC Champions League was a difficult moment for the team. We are very sad. But we went out with honour considering the troubles we had with the absences of players. And immediately after the defeat we had to play the League. We have asked out players to focus on the League now,” said Sadd coach Hussein Ammota during the pre-match press conference.

Sadd finished third last season which was plagued with injuries to key players. But Ammota is confident that the Wolves will bounce back. “After being so far away from the first place last season we have strong conviction to compete for the first place this time around. Last season we did win ten games in a row. The players are high on morale and confidence. Now we have only one competition and we can concentrate on the league,” said Ammota.

Wakrah are aware that they will be the minnows going into this match, and to add to it the international break is also on every coach’s mind. “Both teams have had plenty of rest, Al Sadd obviously have the more experience. With regards to preparation, things can be difficult when we have a long break. Players know that they don’t have a game and then it gets more difficult to keep them their motivation and focused,” said Wakrah coach Maher Kanzari. 

The match between Jaish and Arabi will be the high profile clash of the day with the teams having finished second and fourth last season respectively. Jaish won their first game Al Wakrah but suffered a shock defeat to Umm Salal in their second round. Arabi too started with a win against Al Khor but were held to a 2-2 draw by Al Gharafa. Both teams will be eager to get back to their winning ways and should make this match a keen contest.  

It will be a tough game against Al Arabi. Their ambitions are clear. They want to be among the top teams of QSL. We have had a win and a loss but we didn’t deserve the defeat. We controlled the game like we did in our first match but still lost,” said Jaish coach Nabil Maaloul.

“But we are prepared for our match against Arabi. We know their strengths. They will play an attacking pattern and we will have to counter that,” Maaloul added.

Jaish will be without Majed Mohamed who was sent off in the last match after receiving two yellow cards. And coach Maaloul accepts it will disrupt his team. “Majed is a key player in our tactical game. We will feel his absence. Key players when missing affect the game. Last season we played 10 games - won 7, drew 3. In those three games, some key players didn’t play and that was why we ended up with those draws,” said Maaloul.

But Jaish will be strengthened by the arrival of Brazilian striker Romario Ricardo da Silva who has been bought from Corinthians. “Romario plays on the right side. He was a senior player with the Brazilian side Corinthians. And he played his last game for Corinthians just six days ago. I hope that we can get the boost that we are expecting from him,” added Maaloul.

 Arabi coach Dan Petrescu knows it will be a tough outing but said his team is up for the challenge. “This is an important match. Jaish were second last season. They lost their last match and will be angry about it. But we have had a lot of preparation in the international break. Let’s see if the break works for us or for Jaish,” said Petrescu.

  “This is the biggest match for us so far. It will be a test for us. We will use this match as a test to see where we stand against bigger teams. How we perform against a team that finished second last season will show us our level,” added Petrescu.

 In the second lot of matches, defending champions Lekhwiya are looking to continue their blistering start to the season which has seen them score eight goals in two matches. But the break has been the hardest on Lekhwiya with 13 players who were away on international duty. “It will be a very difficult game for us. Firstly Gharafa is a good team. And second, the players who were out on international duty will only have one training session with the entire team before the match,” said Lekhwiya coach Michael Laudrup.

 Gharafa coach Marcos Paqueta knows that it will be tough task. “Jaish and Lekhwiya are the two strong teams in this league. We know our strengths and we also know the strengths of our opponent. We have prepared the team for this match,” said Paqueta.

  “Gharafa is a big team. We want to bring titles to the club. But it is a step by step process,” he added.

 Qatar SC have sacked their coach Ivan Hasek and he has been replaced by Iraqi coach Rathi Snechel. Their two losses in two games, including a 5-0 hammering by Lekhwiya saw Hasek lose the job. But new coach Snechel is confident that he can turn things around.  

  “Hasek is a very good coach but he didn’t know the players well. He didn’t know what they players needed. It can happen with the biggest coaches. I know how to get the maximum out of this team. These factors will help me change the team around in a short time,” said Snechel.

 As for Sailiya, they put in a strong performance last season to finish fourth but lost their opening game to Al Ahli. And coach Sami Trabelsi said that his team had used the break to rectify the errors. “We have used the break to resolve the problems that we have. Some players were injured. But we have very difficult games coming up. Qatar is coming from two defeats. They are waiting for this game to get back to winning ways especially with a new coach. It won’t be the same team that played the first two games,” said Trabelsi.

 All in all, an action packed day at the Qatar Stars League.

 

Today’s Fixtures

Al Wakrah vs Al Sadd                      6:00PM

El Jaish vs Al Arabi    6:00PM

Lekhwiya vs Al Gharafa                8:15PM

Qatar SC vs Al Sailiya                     8:15PM

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