By Sports Reporter/Doha
QNB Stars League also-rans will get a chance to create a flutter or two when they embark on their Amir Cup campaign today, although most likely they will be only making up the numbers once again.
Umm Salal, who finished ninth in the recently concluded league, will meet second division club Al Shamal today, while 10th-placed Al Khor will take on Al Wakrah, who also played in the second division this season but have been promoted to the top flight for the next.
Coaches of the teams were unanimous in their view that the unpredictability associated with cup competitions gives them some hope of progressing in the Amir Cup.
Umm Salal’s Spanish coach Raul Caneda said he considers his team’s participation in the Amir Cup as a “new chapter” and therefore his players are all charged up.
“The Amir Cup represents a new opportunity and a new chapter for us and we are very proud to be part of it,” Caneda told reporters at his pre-match press conference.
He added Umm Salal won’t be taking Al Shamal lightly despite them not figuring in the QNB Stars League.
“We cannot take victory for granted just because we are a top-flight team. We cannot say we are superior to them just because we are in the first division and they are not.
“At the end of the day what matters is how you perform on the field. We want to stay humble and focused. We don’t want to underestimate our rivals. We want to achieve something as a club,” the Spaniard added.
He went on to stress that every league has strong and weak teams and it’s up the lesser teams to improve their standards.
“Spain has Barcelona and real Madrid at the top and in Qatar we have Al Duhail and Al Sadd. It’s up to the rest of the teams to make a fight of it. They should always keep trying to narrow the gap.”
Darko Novic, the Al Shamal coach, said he expected his team to put up a good fight against Umm Salal.
“Umm Salal are a strong team with very good players. They play with a high degree of efficiency and therefore we have great respect for them.
“However, we are also very positive and will fancy our chances. We have no injuries or other issues with the players and will fight to the end,” the Serbian said.
He added that the Amir Cup is a different tournament and therefore Umm Salal’s positive results in the league were of very little relevance.
“I am counting on the players to deliver. They are a confident lot and will do their best.”
Meanwhile, Al Wakrah boss Bartolome Lopez says his team’s promotion to the QNB Stars League will motivate them to put up a tough fight against Al Khor.
“We are very excited to gain promotion to the top-flight once again,” Lopez, who played for Espanyol in the La Liga, said.
However, he added that for the moment his focus was only on the Amir Cup.
“We are not thinking about the league yet. That will be premature. Our aim is to move to the next round of the Amir Cup.”
Al Khor coach Omar Najhi said his players are mentally prepared to take on Al Wakrah after a tough league where they had to fight hard to stave off relegation.
“We are relieved that we are staying in the Stars League. Now we can focus on the Amir Cup. I feel there will be a few surprises,” said Najhi.
“We have studied Al Wakrah. They have lots of skillful players but we also know their weaknesses which we will strive to exploit.”
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