Coaches in focus as much as teams
Coaches will as much be in focus as the teams when the 2017-18 season QNB Stars League enters its second phase. Their strategies and tactical acumen will mostly determine the clubs’ destiny.
Besides the high-voltage encounters in the crucial phase, it will also be interesting to witness the professional rivalry between the coaches who are sure to use all aces up their sleeves.
Five sides have changed coaches going into the second half of the season. Tunisian Nassif Al Bayawi replaced Frenchman Laurent Banide at Al Khor, Croat Luka Bonacic came in for Tunisian Qais Yaakoubi at Al Arabi, Qatari Abdullah Mubarak replaced Argentinian Gabriel Calderon at Qatar SC, youth team coach George Jorge from Spain got promoted when his compatriot Joaquin Caparros quit his post at Al Ahli and Turk Bulent Uygun took charge of Al Gharafa after they parted ways with Frenchman Jean Fernandez by mutual consent just recently.
Former Turkey international attacking midfielder Bulent is no stranger to Qatar having managed Umm Salal from 2013 to 2016.
Al Markhiya had appointed Egyptian Ayman Mansour after dismissing Yousef Adam, but the latter was reinstated before long.
Leaders Al Duhail’s Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi will be keen to extend their unbeaten run to the second phase. The Red Knights have 29 points from nine wins and two draws.
Jesualdo Ferreira’s Al Sadd are close behind on 27 points and the Portuguese will definitely not want his wards to drop points if they are to challenge Al Duhail for the title. The Wolves have lifted the league shield for a record 13 times.
Third-placed Al Rayyan’s Danish master Michael Laudrup will be keen that his players close the gap with the top two. The Lions are four points adrift of the leaders.
However, Laudrup knows pretty well that the gap with Al Duhail is not big to bridge.
Al Sailiya’s Tunisian coach Sami Trabelsi faces a tough challenge from Umm Salal’s Egyptian trainer Mahmoud Jaber, who will be eager to reclaim the fourth position in the table.
Al Sailiya are on 19 points, three more than Umm Salal.
Caparros did a good job with Al Ahli before relinquishing his position due to personal reasons. He took them to sixth with 14 points. Now, the onus is on his successor Jorge to maintain the momentum.
After a tentative start, Al Ahli gained much ground and Jorge’s task is not impossible given that he had been moulding their youth players.
Uygun has his task cut out i.e. to improve Al Gharafa’s seventh place. His familiarity with Qatar football should help him in his job.
Al Bayawi too has done well after taking over Al Khor, enabling them to finish the first half in eighth position.
Those who manage the last four teams in the table are sure to face intense pressure in the relegation battle. Bonacic’s Al Arabi and Ahmed Al Ajlani’s Al Kharaitiyat are both on nine points, while Qatari coaches Abdulla Mubarak’s Qatar SC and Yousef Adam’s Al Markhiya have only eight and seven points respectively.