Al Gharafa or Umm Salal? That’s the question
The champions and the relegated team have been decided. Indeed, the first three places (Al Duhail, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan in that order) are confirmed. So are Al Markhiya’s relegation to the Second Division, Al Sailiya’s sixth position and Al Kharaitiyat’s 11th place.
However, the 2017-18 season QNB Stars League’s 22nd and final week’s action brings to the fore the hot battle for the fourth spot between Al Gharafa and Umm Salal.
Al Gharafa and Umm Salal are the only teams in contention for the prestigious position that guarantees the team a place in the elite Qatar Cup.
Both Al Gharafa and Umm Salal have 32 points, but the former are currently fourth on better goal difference (+6 compared to Umm Salal’s -1).
Al Gharafa have nine wins, five draws and seven defeats, while Umm Salal have to their credit eight victories, as many draws and five losses.
Al Gharafa have scored 40 goals and conceded 34, whereas Umm Salal scored 32 goals, but conceded 33 to be one goal in deficit.
It is against this backdrop that Umm Salal take on Al Markhiya and Al Gharafa face Qatar SC in Week 22 of the QNB Stars League.
Al Markhiya will be keen to bow out of the top flight on a winning note and that should make things hard for Umm Salal, who must not only win but also hope Al Gharafa drop points.
Going by form and circumstances, Al Gharafa should occupy the fourth spot even though they are up against a much-improved Qatar SC, who are faring well under Abdullah Mubarak.
Al Gharafa and Umm Salal had changed coaches and roped in players in the January transfer window. And they reaped rewards for it, with Al Gharafa making the most of the changes.
Al Gharafa were only seventh in the QNB Stars League standings with just 11 points and two wins at the end of 11-round first phase!
They started performing in a better way ever since Turk Bulent Uygun took over from Frenchman Jean Fernandez before the start of second phase.
The Cheetahs bolstered their ranks by recruiting Dutch attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder, a FIFA World Cup runner-up and UEFA Champions League winner, Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi and Asim Madbo.
Umm Salal fired Egyptian Mahmoud Jaber and replaced him with Moroccan Talal El Karkouri. They had strengthened the squad in the winter with Tunisian attacking midfielder Oussama Darragi and Mohammed Barois.
And The Orange Fortress’ performance graph has been on the rise.