By Sports Reporter/Doha
Al Rayyan head into their today’s blockbuster clash against Al Gharafa with a chance to go top of the QNB Stars League standings. The kick-off is at 6:40pm at the Al Gharafa Stadium. Rayyan are second in the table, two points behind leaders Duhail, who will be in action tomorrow against Al Arabi.
Rayyan coach Diego Aguirre said his team was relishing the opportunity to top the table. “We go into this match with an opportunity to go top of the standings and thus stay strongly in contention for the title,” he said yesterday.
Aguirre, though, cautioned his players that Gharafa will pose a tough challenge. “The match against Al Gharafa is considered by us as one of the most important games this season. They are one of the best teams and we will bring out our best,” he said.
Rayyan will also look to erase the memories of a 1-4 defeat they suffered at the hands of Al Sadd in the 2020 Qatar Cup semi-final recently. “I didn’t see that there was any impact on my team after the loss against Al Sadd in the Qatar Cup semifinal. We have fully forgotten that game. It is now a thing of the past. Our focus is now on the Gharafa match and we have to remain like that if we are to get a positive result. This match has special importance, so we must be 100 per cent ready to win it,” he added.
The contest is a sure shot crowd-puller, given the strong fan base of Gharafa and Rayyan. Both the teams had had played out a goalless draw in the first leg. Gharafa are placed fourth with 20 points and have been a vastly-improved side from last season.
Gharafa coach Slavisa Jokanovic said his team must improve their level and results. “It is a good thing that the team trained last week with full squad after the return of those who represented the Qatar Olympic team and new professional player Jonathan Kodjia from Ivory Coast. We must improve our level and results,” he said
“In the next stage, we will have a continuation of matches, which is a good thing for us and for all teams. We are expecting a lot from our new recruit Kodjia, having played with only one striker for six months. He is undoubtedly a good addition to the attack, but we must give him the opportunity also to adapt to the team,” added Jokanovic
“Al Rayyan, considering their position in the standings (second), are considered as one of the strongest teams. They are showing better levels than last season and are competing for the title. They have a group of outstanding players, so the game is going to be difficult.”
In another match of the day, Al Sailiya take on hosts Al Ahli at 4:30pm. Sailiya, who are sixth in the table with 17 points, will under long-standing coach Sami Trabelsi be eager to make up for their 0-2 loss to Al Duhail in the Qatar Cup semi-final recently.
The Tunisian’s wards had finished a creditable third last season, their best-ever finish in the league. So they will keen on storming into the top four. Ahli are ninth in the standings with 13 points, with the Brigadiers recently replacing Spanish coach Ruben de la Barrera with Montenegrin Nebojsa Jovovic as they bid to finish in the top half of the table. Al Ahli had beaten Al Sailiya 3-0 in the first leg.
Today: Al Sailiya vs Al Ahli (16:30, Al Ahli Stadium), Al Gharafa vs Al Rayyan (18:40, Al Gharafa Stadium)
Tomorrow: Qatar SC vs Al Wakrah (16:30, Qatar SC Stadium), Al Arabi vs Al Duhail (18:40, Al Arabi Stadium)
On Saturday: Umm Salal vs Al Khor (16:30, Al Gharafa Stadium) and Al Sadd vs Al Shahania (18:40, Al Sadd Stadium)
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