By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Arabi coach Luka Bonacic hopes the international friendly break will not affect his team’s momentum when they take on fierce traditional rivals Al Rayyan in the QNB Stars League today.
The ‘Dream Team’ bounced back from a 10-1 thrashing by Al Sadd in August to beat Al Khor 1-0 and Umm Salal 5-1 to restore their pride and sit pretty in the standings with nine points from four matches.
They are only point one off the pace from leaders Al Sadd and Al Duhail who are tied on 10, the Qatar giants having dropped points against Al Gharafa and Al Rayyan, respectively.
“We have been in great form and the break was not good for us as we were maintaining a good momentum,” Bonacic told reporters at his pre-match press conference.
“But we have to honour FIFA commitments,” he added ruefully.
The 63-year-old Croat, however, is confident of his team’s chances against ‘Big four’ club Al Rayyan.
“After the big defeat to Al Sadd in the second round we showed remarkable improvement and that has reflected on our performances. I am expecting a good game against Al Rayyan. I wish my boys will go out and show what they are capable of,” he said.
He added that facing Al Rayyan brings out the best from his players.
“This game is special from the fans’ point of view also. Our fans are something special. I have been experiencing that ever since I took over Al Arabi. It’s good that we play for them. But playing against Al Rayyan is the greatest motivation for our players,” said Bonacic.
Al Rayyan’s new coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena also praised Al Arabi for showing tremendous resolve after suffering the morale-shattering 10-1 defeat to Al Sadd.
“We are back to league action after an international break and we are into a big match against Al Arabi. They had suffered a setback against Al Sadd, but they came back strongly,” said Arruabarrena.
“In the process, Al Arabi also showed they can score many goals. They are playing the way we also want to play at the moment. We can expect a tough fight. They already have nine points and that is how you start a league competition,” he added.
The Argentinian said his side have plenty to play for as they are only two points adrift of the leaders.
“The difference between top team Al Sadd and us is only two points. You must show patience especially at the start of a league competition and wait for good results to come.
“Al Arabi have the potential to make it a great match and I am sure fans can see a great game.
“All our players are ready and I will decide on the playing eleven based on the fitness and form of the players on the match day. The same is applicable in the case of new recruit Jonathan Menendez also.”
In another match today Al Shahania will take on Qatar SC, with both teams looking to improve their positions.
Al Shahania are eighth in the standings with just four points from as many matches, while QSC are placed ninth, having lost three of their four matches so far.
“It is going to be a difficult game. In fact, it will be difficult for both teams. We are hoping to collect full points against Qatar SC,” Shahania coach Jose Murcia said.
“Qatar SC are a strong side. They can be really tricky and have some very good players in their ranks such as Samuel Eto’o and Osama Omari. Still, we will play for three points.
“During the break, we had been working hard. We have had problems with injuries to some of our players. The FIFA break is good for some teams, while it is not so good for other teams. We need more games.”
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