Al Gharafa are keen to maintain their top-4 spot in the QNB Stars League as they target next year’s Asian Champions League, coach Slavisa Jokanovic said yesterday.
Al Gharafa, who are currently fourth on the table with 25 points from 16 matches, will take on Al Wakrah today and are aware that teams such as Al Sailiya (23) and Al Arabi (21) can gatecrash their party.
“We want to put up an improved performance against Al Wakrah and we are on top of our readiness,” said Jokanovic.   
“As the season approaches the end, we will fight to achieve our target of playing in next season’s AFC Champions League. We are staying highly focused, so we should be able to fulfil our ambition. It is normal for any team to have a decline in performance, but what worried me was the loss of confidence by the players, as happened in the last game. We should work on that besides improving the technical level,” he added.
Al Wakrah coach Marquez Lopez, meanwhile wants his team to bounce back from last week’s defeat to Umm Salal.
 “All our players, except the injured Osman Coulibaly, are ready for the game. I was sad and angry that we lost to Umm Salal last week as it was a crucial game for us. Had we won, we would have got closer to the top four,” said Lopez, whose team are in seventh place with 19 points.
“I have told my players about the importance of the match with Al Gharafa and that it is worth a lot of points. If we win it, we will move closer to the top four. If we lose, the situation will be very difficult.”
In another match today, relegation-threatened Al Shahania will take on Umm Salal.  “We are not exaggerating this match’s importance. We prepare for it like in all matches with focus, but it is really a special match,” said Al Shahania coach Jose Murcia, whose team are last on the table with just nine points from 16 matches, having recorded just one win so far.
“We must provide a good level in the match, which comes at a time when we must be ready in every sense of the word, especially since the opponents have achieved positive results in the recent rounds and achieved their target, which is to collect as many points as possible. We must win, so that we can keep alive our chances of staying in the top flight.”
“We will not give up and continue to work to keep the team away from relegation. Our opportunity still exists,” said Murcia.
Umm Salal coach Aziz Ben Askar sounded confident. “We are ready for Al Shahania match. It is not at all easy for both teams, it is a six-point game. We must continue to work in the same way. I told our players that it is necessary to keep working with the same enthusiasm because we represent the club’s future and not only ourselves.”