By Sports Reporter/Doha
It’s quite a rare instance that Al Duhail and Al Sadd go head-to-head Wednesday with both the teams not among the leaders of the QNB Stars League. It’s still early days in the tournament, but the Qatari giants have seldom looked at their best in recent times.
After three matches in the league, Duhail have won two and lost one and are fifth in the table, while Sadd have fared slightly better, occupying third position with seven points from three matches. A victory for both the teams in today’s match, postponed from Week 3 due to their commitment in the AFC Champions League, would at best put them in second place as Al Ahli, with four wins out of four sit pretty at the top.
But the face-off between the two formidable opponents has always evoked keen interest among all stakeholders for more reasons than one. Reigning champions Duhail are coming off a 2-1 victory over Qatar SC, as they warm up to new coach Sabri Lamouchi, who replaced Walid Regragui.
The Frenchman took over the reins last week for his second stint at the club and undoubtedly he faces a stiffer challenge this time. After having been knocked out of the AFC Champions League at the group phase itself, Duhail have difficult fixtures ahead. After Wednesday’s match against Sadd, they face last year’s runner-up Al Rayyan on Sunday before again running into arch-rivals Sadd in the Amir Cup semi-final on October 31.
“I am happy to return to work in the QNB Stars League and in Qatar. I will take on a new challenge with one of the biggest Qatari teams. I have started on a good note with an important victory against Qatar SC,” said Lamouchi Tuesday.
The Frenchman’s main concern would be Duhail’s poor record against Sadd recently. In last six matches, the Red Knights have only won once and lost four times. “We will face one of the teams competing for the title and we are looking forward to a strong match and achieve a good result,” he said.
“The match between Al Sadd and Al Duhail is always strong. Al Sadd have great potential and this match does not determine the path of the title because we only played three matches. I will choose the best squad for this match. I want my players to give their best as there are crucial matches ahead, starting from tomorrow,” he said.
On the other hand, Al Sadd go into the game following their goalless draw with Al Khor. Xavi Hernandez’s men beat Al Kharaitiyat and Al Sailiya by an identical 5-1 margin in the first two weeks. They also bowed out of the AFC Champions League in the last 16 before going on to lift the 2019-20 season Ooredoo Cup title by beating Al Arabi 4-0 in the final.
Xavi said his side was ready to face Duhail, but expected a complicated encounter against the reigning champions. “Of course, it is always complicated to play against Duhail. It will be very difficult because the players feel more tension that in other games. But we are ready and are in a good moment, even though we lost two points against Al Khor in the last game,” the former Barcelona midfield great said.
“I think we are training well. We have the capacity to defeat Al-Duhail, and of course, they have the capacity to defeat Sadd. It will be difficult for both sides. We have to do our best, give our 100% and be aggressive. We must be ambitious. We want to win this competition. We have to get these three important points against Duhail, who are our direct rivals,” he added.
Xavi confirmed that both Akram Afif and Abdelkarim Hassan are fit for the game, but goalkeeper Saad al-Dosari will miss out. The Spaniard said he will take a call on Baghdad Bounedjah’s availability after Tuesday’s training session.
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