Battle lines drawn for second phase
The battle lines have been drawn for the QNB Stars League’s second and crucial phase. The tournament will resume this week following a month-long break.
The teams will be looking forward to success and glory as ever in the new year. All of them braced for the remaining part of the season in earnest by utilising the winter break in the most effective way. The clubs intensified their preparations and most of them played friendlies either against each other or against top overseas sides in order to stay battle-ready.
The action will be non-stop in the QNB Stars League and the big question is whether Al Duhail continue their unbeaten run (they were the only team to do so in the first phase) and go on to lift the coveted shield.
However, Al Sadd and Al Rayyan are close behind and the duo have the potential and resources to challenge Al Duhail. The fight for the fourth place will most probably be between Al Sailiya, who occupy that spot presently, and Umm Salal.
Al Ahli complete the top half. The rivalry is intense in the bottom row too as only a thin line separates the six teams.
Some teams will be fighting to achieve top spots in the standings, while some others will battle it out to avoid relegation.
During the break, the semifinals and final of the QSL Cup were played. Al Gharafa ended their long title drought by winning the tournament, defeating Al Rayyan in the final.
The Cheetahs will embark on their second-phase campaign under Turkish coach Bulent Uygun, who replaced Jean Fernandez.
Similarly, Al Ahli will play the remaining part of the season under the tutelage of their youth team coach George Jorge after fellow Spaniard Joaquin Caparros quit citing personal reasons.
In between, many players did duty for Qatar at the Gulf Cup in Kuwait, where Al Annabi made their exit in the group stage. And some others will miss a few matches due to their commitments to the country at the forthcoming Asian Under-23 Championship in china.
Much of the spotlight will be on Dutch star Wesley Sneijder, who has just been roped in by Al Gharafa. The attacking midfielder had an illustrious career with a number of big clubs in Europe, such as Ajax Amsterdam, Real Madrid and Galatasaray as well.
The 33-year-old is most noted for being a member of the UEFA Champions League-winning Inter Milan side in 2010. Sneijder was also a part of the Netherlands team that lost to Spain in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final in South Africa.
The tournament’s opening half witnessed 228 goals and Al Duhail’s Youssef El Arabi emerged as the top scorer with 16 goals. The Moroccan striker is all set to end up as the leading goal getter for a second successive season.
The much-awaited Qatar Clasico between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan will be fought in Week 16 on 8th February. Al Duhail will host Al Rayyan in Week 14 on 27th January and Al Duhail will travel to Al Sadd in in Week 19 on 1st march in some top draws.
In Week 12, the most focus is on Al Ahli’s home fixture against Al Gharafa on Friday. Other games are Al Duhail vs Qatar SC, Al Sadd vs Al Markhiya, Al Rayyan vs Al Khor, Al Sailiya vs Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat vs Umm Salal.