Qatar Volleyball Association Secretary-General Mohammed Ali al-Mohannadi during a press conference yesterday. RIGHT: An official at the draw ceremony. PICTURES: Thajudheen


By Sports Reporter/Doha

Defending champions Al Arabi will take on Al Shamal or Al Wakrah in the quarter-finals of the Emir Cup Volleyball tournament, which will be played under new format from May 3 to May 16. This was informed by QVA Secretary-General Mohammed Ali al-Mohannadi during a press conference yesterday.
“As per the new format, the top five league teams – champions Al Rayyan, runners-up Al Arabi, third-placed El Jaish, fourth-placed Police and Al Ahli Club — have been directly placed into the quarter-finals.” al-Mohannadi said.
The remaining six teams will play in the pre-quarter-finals and the winners will advance to meet the best three –Al Rayyan Club, Emir Cup defending champions Al Arabi and El Jaish. “The semi-finals, like the Qatar Cup, will be contested over the best-of-three format with the final being decided over one match,” he said.
The runners-up Police and Al Ahli Club will play the first quarter-final and fight it out for a place in the semi-finals, to be held on from May 10. The winners will be decided on May 16. Earlier, the Emir Cup was played on the league-cum-knock-out basis with the teams being clubbed in two groups. Then, the semi-final and final were played.
Al Sadd will take on Gharafa on the opening day, while Qatar Sports Club will meet Al Khor the same day.The third pre-quarter-final clash will be between Al Shamal and Al Wakrah on May 4. The quarter-finals are scheduled for May 6 and 7.
After the Al Ahli-Police quarter-final, Al Rayyan, who have won the Emir Cup 11 times in 23 finals, will take on the winners between the winners of the Al Sadd vs Al Gharafa clash.
El Jaish have been drawn to face the winners of the Qatar Sports Club vs Al Khor match. Al Arabi, who have the most Emir Cup titles winning 20 out of 26 finals, will clash with either Al Shamal or Al Wakrah on May 7 to complete the semi-final line-up.
Al Arabi is aiming for their 21st Emir’s Cup win in the 35th edition of the tournament this year and is well aware of the tough competition.  The team’s volleyball head Mohamed Jassim al-Kuwari is expecting Al Shamal to be not only the first rivals for his team in the quarter-finals but very difficult as one well.
“I feel there will not be an easy match for us in the quarter-finals. We expect Shamal to qualify. They are one of the improved teams, having beaten Police in the League. Al Shamal are going to hire two high-level professionals. They finished sixth in the League, which is creditable. Their club and management deserve praise for trying to push the team up.”
Shamal is the most improved team of the Qatar League. The bottom-ranked team in the last two editions, Shamal punched way above their weight this season and finished sixth. Coached by former Al Arabi boss Mawia Alajnaf, Shamal have been boosted by the presence of Serbian professionals Marko Stevanovic and Vlado Bojic as well as former Qatar international Saeed Faraj.
Talking about his own team’s composition, al-Kuwari said they have not decided really about the line-up for the Emir Cup. “We’re not sure about our Emir Cup team at the moment. We have Yassner Escobar and Kenyan Philip Maiyo at the moment. We’ll see how we play in the Qatar Cup. We’re trying to get Juantorena Osmany but it is not confirmed yet. The Cuban player Escobar is new with us. He played in the last two matched in the League and he will play also in the Qatar Cup with Maiyo.
Al-Kuwari also said Rayyan is the strongest team in the tournament. “On paper, I think Al Rayyan look the best team. They already have Cristian Savani, who is a high-profile player in Europe. Jan Stokr, one of the best players in the world, is also joining them. Europe’s star player Wilfredo Leon may also play for Rayyan,” he said.
“So in my opinion, Rayyan have a strong chance of winning the other two titles as well. We’ll try our best and fight on the court, where it is a different ball game,” he added.

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