By Sports Reporter/Doha
QNB Stars League leaders Al Duhail will kick of their second half of the campaign against Qatar SC today, and coach Djamel Belmadi feels that it won’t be easy to resume after a break. “The first game in each phase is always difficult, but we would like to start from where we left off,” said Belmadi. “Qatar SC are a transformed side under new coach Abdullah Mubarak. Their strategies and priorities have changed, and they showed marked improvement in the last few games. That makes our task hard.
“The break between the first and second phase was a welcome relief for our players after putting in great efforts in the opening half. No doubt, we will benefit from it by way of results,” he added.
Duhail, who are two points ahead of second-placed Al Sadd, will miss as many as six players, who are currently doing duty for Qatar at the Asian Under-23 championship in China. So a number of new faces will appear on the bench.
Qatar SC are languishing in 11th position, just one point above bottom-side Al Markhiya, and it’s not a fixture they would have hoped for after a long break. “Al Duhail are a champion side. There’s no doubt about it. There’s a huge difference in both teams’ standings. They are the leaders and we are only 11th. We will definitely look for a victory. But I promise that even if we lose, that will not be by a big margin,” said Qatar SC coach Mubarak.
Al Sadd will kick off today’s league proceedings against Al Markhiya. Sadd’s coach Jesualdo Ferreira refused to call the game easy, despite their opponents lying in the last place.
“It will be difficult since the match comes after a long break. For that matter, all teams will find it tough. For sure, it will take some time for the players to get going after a break of one month,” he said.
Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah is still recovering from an injury and will sit out of the game. “We will try to take the lead in our bid to win the league shield for a 14th time. The matches in the second phase will be more difficult for us than in the first leg because we also have to compete in the AFC Champions League,” added Ferreira.
For Al Markhiya, it was so near yet so fa against Sadd in the first match of the season. The newcomers had beaten the Qatari giants but were penalised after they fielded an illegible player/
“This is a revenge game for us,” said coach Yousef Adam. “We had beaten Al Sadd in the opening week of first phase, but the result was overturned for fielding an ineligible player. So we are out to prove a point.
“It is tough for any side to play against Al Sadd. We had worked hard during the break in the league. My players know the importance of this game,” he added.
In another match, Al Rayyan, who are third in the league face, Al Khor. Coach Michael Laudrup said: “It’s vital to resume our campaign after the break with a win. We have three games in January and, after that, it will be too tight a schedule for us in February, March and April with the AFC Champions League engagements too.
“I am happy that we won a lot of games from September to November. I hope the second half of the season will also be good for us. Al Khor are a tricky side. We beat them 4-2 in the first phase, but when we were dominating and winning the game, they suddenly came back into the match. In effect, every league match is important,” he added.
Al Khor coach Nassif al-Bayawi said: “Rayyan are one of the strongest teams in the QNB Stars League and they are placed third. They had lost to Al Gharafa in the QSL Cup final during the break following their defeat at the hands of Al Ahli. So we expect a strong reaction from them and that will make things difficult for us,”
4:20pm: Al Rayyan vs Al Khor at Al Sadd Stadium; 6:30pm: Al Sadd vs Al Markhiya at Al Sadd Stadium; Qatar SC vs Al Duhail at Qatar SC Stadium
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