By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Duhail will face their toughest test of the season as the leaders are away to Al Sadd for a blockbuster QNB Stars League clash today. Duhail have not lost a match since February 2017, an amazing unbeaten run that has spread over 22 months and 41 matches.
But today, an in form Al Sadd will fancy their chances against the defending champions and go on top of the table. Duhail, who had a healthy eight-point lead over arch-rivals Sadd not long back, have struggled for form recently.
They have been held to draw in consecutive matches against Al Rayyan and Qatar SC, which means the Nabil Maaloul’s side have just one-point cushion going into today’s key clash. On the other hand Jesualdo Ferreira’s Sadd have been on a roll, swatting aside their opponents easily.
Al Sadd are coming off a 4-1 victory over Al Shahania, with Baghdad Bounedjah scoring goals for fun. The Algerian striker 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.
And Bounedjah will once again be a key pawn form Sadd against Duhail, who will be happy with a draw. Meanwhile, Sadd captain Xavi Hernandez is back from injury and will look to anchor the team in the midfield.
Ahead of the game, Sadd coach Ferreira declared the winner of today’s game may determine who will be the best team this season.
“All our matches against Al Duhail were exciting and full of goals, but unfortunately we were not happy with those matches because they beat us in many games. I do not agree that the recent results of Al Duhail were due to injuries. Why do you talk about injuries? The winners of this game may determine who will be the best,” Ferreira said yesterday.
The Portuguese manager felt his team was under more pressure, having lost to Al Duhail in the title race in previous seasons.
“We are under more pressure than Al Duhail. They are the leaders and have won the league title more than once. And regardless of injuries, they are in a better position. I wish our fans turn out in large numbers and we need their support,” said Ferreira.
“Our players do not need any psychological preparation for this game. They know how important the match is and both teams have a great desire to win. The players have had regular training and there was no special training for this match. Everyone knows that the game pits the two best teams in Qatar. The difference between us is only one point and that makes the game difficult,” he added.
Meanwhile, Duhail coach Maaloul was hopeful his side will put in a show worthy of the occasion. He too conceded that the encounter could prove a turning point in the league in which Duhail have 36 points, with Sadd close behind on 35.
“There was not much time to prepare for this game against Al Sadd. This is an important game for both teams and the winners will have an edge in the race for the title,” Maaloul said
The Tunisian coach blamed Duhail’s recent unimpressive run to injuries to Nam Tae-Hee, who is out for the season after suffering a knee ligament tear, while Luiz Martin looks doubtful after getting a knock against Qatar SC.
“Our team has a few injury worries and we did not have many options in our last match against Qatar SC, which ended in a draw. I feel our players will rise to the occasion against Al Sadd and prove that we are the leaders not by default. Both sides know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and the match has much at stake,” said Maaloul.
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.
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