Al Duhail go into the Qatar Cup as the 2017-18 season QNB Stars League champions. They had clinched the title with a 5-0 victory over Al Kharaitiyat in Week 20, having taken an unassailable lead over nearest challengers Al Sadd.
Al Duhail showed no let-up, beating Al Markhiya 4-2 in Week 21 and Al Sailiya 5-2 in Week 22 to finish the campaign on a whopping 60 points from 19 victories and three draws.
In the process, The Red Knights remained as the only unbeaten side in the QNB Stars League. And they made their coronation memorable in front of home fans.
Al Duhail thus achieved their sixth Qatar League title, second in a row and first after they were formed by merging Lekhwiya with El Jaish. Four of them (2010-11, 2011-12, 2016-17 and 2017-18) came when Algerian Djamel Belmadi was at the helm. They had also triumphed under Eric Gerets (2013-14) and current Al Rayyan coach Michael Laudrup (2014-15).
Al Duhail have a fierce frontline and scored 86 goals, the most by any team. Al Sadd came next with 68. Their players, Moroccan striker Youssef El Arabi (26) and Tunisian attacking midfielder Youssef Msakny (25) emerged as the best scorers in the QNB Stars League.
El Arabi was the top scorer last season also. They also had the second-best defence as they conceded only 27 goals, two more than the number of goals against Al Sadd.
Al Duhail had stability in terms of the presence of professional players as except Chico Flores, who was replaced by Lucas Mendes, all other players — Msakny, El Arabi and Nam Tae-Hee — stayed.
Besides, they have an outstanding array of Qatari players such as Karim Boudiaf, Almoez Ali, Bassam al-Rawi, Ismail Mohamed, Luiz Martin, Mohamed Moussa and Sultan Al Berik.
Al Duhail’s ambitions do not stop there. They are also keen on doing extremely well at the continental level. Belmadi’s men had become the first team to qualify for the Round of 16 in this year’s AFC Champions League.
They have players with great potential, both junior and experienced ones, to deliver the goods. Al Duhail suffered a setback when captain Msakny was ruled out of action for almost six months with a cruciate ligament injury he sustained during their QNB Stars League Week 22 match against Al Sailiya.
Msakny is also likely to miss the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer. In his absence, Boudiaf is to lead the side.
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