Al Sadd know very well that they cannot afford to have any slip-ups, especially against bottom-half teams, when they travel to Al Ahli for their Round seven match in the QNB Stars League today. The 13-time league champions, the most titles by any side in Qatar, would rather forget their ‘Qatar Clasico’ loss to Al Rayyan last week and should be going all out against Al Ahli.
Sadd are still second in the table with 15 points, one less than Al Duhail. Though Al Rayyan has 15 points, they are pushed to third spot on goal difference. The Wolves have the wherewithal to beat any side in Qatar, with the likes of Spanish great Xavi Hernandez orchestrating their midfield and Algerians Baghdad Bounedjah and Jugurtha Hamroun as well as Qatar international Hassan al-Haydous leading their attack. However, Hamroun, who was fielded only in the 57th minute against Al Rayyan, has been off-colour and Xavi and al-Haydous could not do much in the second half.
The injury to Boualem Khoukhi has added to their woes. Baghdad, who missed Al Sadd’s first three league matches, seems to have fully recovered from his injury and has found his touch. He had netted their only goal against Al Rayyan as well, but he needs support to continue his scoring run.
The defeat to Al Rayyan, their first this season, exposed some weaknesses among the Al Sadd ranks and Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira would hope the team soon becomes a well-oiled machine.
Al Ahli, meanwhile, are in a confident mood after holding Al Arabi by twice coming from behind. They were slow off the blocks, but came up with a spirited performance in the second half, which saw them score two goals.
They matched Al Arabi ball for ball and the win helped them move up in the standings by one position, to eighth. The good form of seasoned left-back Meshaal Mubarak, who also scored in the last round, under-23 player Farid Ibrahim, the other scorer, and spearhead Mishaal Abdullah should add to Spanish coach Joaquin Capaross’ confidence. Caparros expected it to be a tough match, with Sadd hurting from despite their loss to Al Rayyan in ‘Qatar Clasico’.
“It’s a foregone conclusion that we’re going to face a tough team in Al Sadd despite their loss to Rayyan. This is one of our most difficult matches in the QNB Stars League’s first phase. They’ve players with perhaps more quality than any other side in the competition,” he said.
“We’ve always missed the services of our professional players and key local players due to injuries this season. That has adversely affected our performances, resulting in a series of negative results. And we could register only one victory so far,” the Spaniard added
Caparros shed more light on Ahli’s injury problems. “We’re ruing the injuries to players like Younis Ali, Fadhl Omar and Yasseen Shehawi. We’re sure Sadd will be more hungry for a victory and put behind their disappointment against Rayyan, so we’ll try everything possible to stop their marauding forwards. We’ve taken heart from the fact that we had put up a strong performance against Al Arabi in the last match, which was drawn 2-2. I’m trying hard to motivate my players. We twice came from behind to hold them,” the Ahli said.
Round 7 fixtures
Today: Al Ahli vs Al Sadd at Al Ahli
Tomorrow: Al Rayyan vs Qatar SC at
Al Sadd stadium 5:15pm, Al Gharafa vs
Al Markhiya at Al Gharafa stadium 5:15pm; Al Khor vs Al Duhail at Al Khor stadium 7:25pm
On Saturday: Al Sailiya vs Umm Salal at
Al Ahli stadium 5:15pm; Al Kharaitiyat vs Al Arabi at Al Khor Stadium 7:25pm
Al Sadd are still second in the table with 15 points, one less than Al Duhail. Al Rayyan, who also have 15 points, are pushed to third spot on goal difference.