By Sports Reporter/ Doha
The wait is almost over! The QNB Stars League, which was forced to take an unscheduled four-month long break due to the Coronavirus pandemic, will resume this Friday.
The teams have been preparing for more than a month now after the Qatar Stars League (QSL) tested players and technical staff of clubs for coronavirus. Since then – after being quarantine in hotels – the clubs have resumed training under strict precautionary measures developed by QSL in co-operation with Ministry of Public Health.
With five rounds remaining in the season, there is plenty to play for teams, with matches scheduled at Al Janoub and Al Sadd Stadiums, both possessing cooling technology for the player to cope the heat.
The opening fixture will be held between Al Gharafa and Al Arabi at 4:45pm at Al Janoub Stadium, with battle for top four spot making it a interesting contest.
Al Gharafa are fourth in the standings, behind leaders Al Duhail, Al Rayyan and Al Sadd in that order, with 28 points. They are only four points adrift of reigning champions Al Sadd. They also have four points more than their closest challengers and fifth-placed side Al Arabi (24 points).
Both teams will be eager to finish among the top four and thereby play in the elite Qatar Cup and AFC Champions League. That will make the contest more interesting.
Leaders Duhail will be in action on Saturday, as they face Umm Salal at Al Janoub Stadium. Duhail have 42 points four more than second-placed Al Rayyan and 10 points more than holders Al Sadd.
They have only lost once this season and it will be interesting to see how they come back from a long break. In Umm Salal they have an easy opponent, as they are battling for survival in 11th position with 14 points, the same as Al Khor but behind on goal difference.
Meanwhile, Rayyan, on the other hand will be hoping for a slip-up from Duhail and be in contention for the title. They resume their campaign against Qatar SC, which is struggling in ninth spot with 17 points. A string of positive results had enabled Qatar SC to move away from the danger zone, but they are not completely safe.
Reigning champions Al Sadd are still in with a chance to retain the title, but they face a daunting task in that mission. Xavi Hernandez’s side face Al Khor at home on Saturday. Spanish midfield great Xavi, who signed a one-year contract extension recently, will be hoping his players can go on a winning run, but it would still would need a miracle for them to lay their hands on the trophy. Al Khor are 10th with 14 points, the same as Umm Salal but ahead on goal difference.
Al Wakrah, seventh in the standings with 19 points, take on Al Sailiya and will look to improve their position in the top flight, where they are playing after a gap of two seasons. Wakrah had bowed out of both Amir Cup and Ooredoo Cup in the quarter-final stage, and have only league competition to focus on.
Al Sailiya, sixth with 23 points, still nurture hopes of finishing among the top four and thereby playing in the Qatar Cup and AFC Champions League, just like they did last season when they secured a third-place finish, their best-ever performance in the league.
Al Shahania, the basement side with 10 points, are staring at relegation and cannot afford to drop points in the remaining five games if they are to stay in the top flight. They face Al Ahli on Sunday
Al Ahli are eighth in the QNB Stars League standings with 19 points, the same as Al Wakrah but behind on goal difference. They will be keen to bag as many points as possible and earn a better spot in the league.
Friday: Al Gharafa vs Al Arabi (16:45, Al Janoub Stadium), Qatar SC vs Al Rayyan (19:00, Al Sadd Stadium)
Saturday: Al Duhail vs Umm Salal (16:45, Al Janoub Stadium), Al Sadd vs Al Khor (19:00, Al Sadd Stadium)
Sunday: Al Wakrah vs Al Sailiya (16:45, Al Janoub Stadium) and Al Shahania vs Al Ahli (19:00, Al Sadd Stadium)
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