By Sports Reporter/Doha
Can the feared trio of Baghdad Bounedjah and Akram Afif crack the mean Al Duhail defence when they clash in the QNB Stars League tomorrow?
Can Al Duhail’s Youssef El Arabi or Almoez Ali overcome the resoluteness of AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan who is known for his no-nonsense ways in the Al Sadd defence?
These are some of the questions on every Qatar football fan’s mind as the domestic giants square off for the first time this season in a high-voltage match where sparks are expected to fly and set the tone for the remainder of the tournament.
The match was rescheduled from week 9 due to Al Sadd’s semi-final match against Iran’s Persepolis in the AFC Champions League, which the Wolves lost on aggregate. The kick-off is at 6.30pm at the Al Sadd Stadium.
The encounter could prove a turning point in the league in which Al Duhail have 36 points, with Al Sadd close behind on 35.
Al Duhail are the only unbeaten team in the tournament but their three draws – two against Al Rayyan and one against Qatar Sports Club – allowed Al Sadd to close the gap to just one point and raise expectations of a tight finish.
Al Sadd are coming off a 4-1 victory over Al Shahania, while Al Duhail were held to a 1-1 draw by Qatar SC in Week 15. It was the third time that The Red Knights were dropping points this season and second successive time they were held to a draw, having had to play out a 2-2 draw with Al Rayyan in the previous round.
Both Al Sadd and Al Duhail are level on the number of victories (11). Al Duhail have a goal difference of +26 (36 goals for and 10 against).
However, The Wolves have the best goal difference among the 12 teams (+49, 62 goals for and 13 against). Al Sadd also have one defeat (against Al Ahli in the first leg) and two draws against their name.
The contest will also be noted on the tactical front.
Al Sadd’s Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira has had over 30 years’ experience in the game, and has managed a host of top European sides including the likes of Malaga in Spain and Panathinaikos in Greece.
Al Duhail’s Tunisian coach Nabil Maaloul, who replaced Algerian Djamel Belmadi ahead of the 2018-19 season QNB Stars League, also has an impressive track record in coaching. He guided his country Tunisia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Al Sadd attack will be led by Algerian striker Bounedjah, who last week became the Qatar league’s all-time top scorer in a single season when he took his personal tally to 28 goals after scoring twice against Al Shahania.
He surpassed Brazilian striker Clemerson Soares’ record of 27 goals set in the 2007-08 season for Al Gharafa.
Al Sadd also have Hassan al-Haydous and Afif in attack, while their midfield will be held together by Spaniards Xavi Hernandez and Gabi Fernandez.
Moroccan striker Yousef El Arabi will spearhead Al Duhail’s offence, in the company of Almoez Ali and Paolo Edmilson.
Though they will continue to miss injured midfielder Nam Tae-hee, they have the services of the likes of Karim Boudiaf and Luis Martin in the middle, and Lucas Mendes, Mohamed Mousa and Murad Naji at the rear.
Al Sadd are 13-times winners, but their last title was in 2013 after which it has been Duhail all the way except for 2016 when Al Rayyan won the title.
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