By Sports Reporter/Doha
Much focus of Week 12 action will be on the encounter between mid-table sides Al Ahli and Al Gharafa on the former’s home turf.
Their first-phase clash had ended in a 1-1 draw, but Al Gharafa start as favourites this time. The very presence of Dutch star Wesley Sneijder can tilt the scale in their favour. The UEFA Champions League-winning attacking midfielder joined them in the current winter transfer window.
The Cheetahs are also under new coach Bulent Uygun, who replaced Frenchman Jean Fernandez. His vast experience in Qatar football, having coached Umm Salal from 2013 to 2016, should give Al Gharafa an added advantage.
To add to that, Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi is expected to join Al Gharafa and strengthen their attack.
Even though influential midfielder Vladimir Weiss is out for the season injured, the good form of captain Luis Jimenez, Almahdi Ali as well as youngsters such as Ahmed Alaelddin, Othman al-Yahri and Amro Seraj augur well for Al Gharafa.
Al Ahli, playing their first competitive game under George Jorge who recently replaced fellow Spaniard Joaquin Caparros, will be bolstered by the return from injury of captain Meshaal Abdullah.
It has to be seen whether Jorge succeeds in helping them improve their sixth place in the standings. Yassine Chikhaoui and Ali Qadri are players who can cause trouble for the rivals.
Al Sailiya face Al Arabi
Al Sailiya are having one of their best seasons this time. They are likely to face competition from Umm Salal, Al Gharafa and Al Ahli to stay there eventually.
Uzbek striker Temurkhuja Abdukholiqov, Wagner Ribeiro and Valentin Lazar lead their charge. Defender Ghanem al-Qahtani, who underwent an intensive rehabilitation programme following a surgery he had at Qatar’s orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital Aspetar on December 11 to correct an injury on his ankle, is a doubtful starter.
Al Arabi are also determined to move up the table after finishing the first phase in ninth position with just nine points.
They strengthened their porous defence by signing Croat Ivan Foster, replacing Tunisian defender Ammar Jemal, in the winter transfer window.
Coach Luka Bonacic would expect Khalfan Ibrahim and co to also take the positives from the friendlies they played against Al Mesaimeer and Al Markhiya during the break.
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