The Qatar Cup is back, this time with the participation of Al Sadd, Al Duhail, Al Wakrah and Al Arabi, the top-four teams in the 2021-2022 season QNB Stars League in that order.
Ever since the Qatar Stars League announced the dates of 2023 Qatar Cup, fans have been keenly following the competing teams.
All eyes will be on the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium of Al Sadd club on Thursday, February 9, 2023, where the semifinals will be played. Last two editions’ champions Al Sadd face Al Arabi in the first semifinal at 16:40, followed by the Al Duhail vs Al Wakrah match (19:45).
Al Sadd vs Al Arabi… beyond expectations
Al Sadd seek to defend the title they won in 2020 and 2021. The Wolves have regained the services of their international players and have achieved four consecutive victories in the league after the long break. The last in the list was the 2-0 win over Umm Salal in Week 13.
With that victory, Al Sadd jumped from sixth to third in the table with 19 points, on goal difference ahead of Qatar SC and Al Gharafa, and it should be an additional motivation for their ranks (to face Al Arabi) which are complete now with the return of national team players.
Al Sadd will count on two things – the first is their strong comeback and successive victories and the second is their important victory over Al Arabi in Week 11 with a score of 2-0, thanks to goals from Santi Cazorla and Hassan Al Haydous.
On the other hand, Al Arabi, who are in the race for the league title (they are currently second with 25 points, four points behind leaders Al Duhail), realize that the remaining part of the season may turn out to be better for them if they manage to get pass Al Sadd and compete for the 2023 Qatar Cup title.
This is the first time that Al Arabi are participating in the tournament after its launch with its new name in 2014. Therefore, the enthusiasm will be unrivalled within the team, which got back to winning ways in the league by defeating Al Rayyan 3-0 in Week 13.
Al Arabi seek to win a title after a long gap, therefore their players will spare no effort to snatch victory and advance to the final.
Al Arabi are well-served particularly by Syrian striker Omar Al Somah (eight goals) and Tunisian attacking midfielder Yousef Msakni (seven goals). They are closely behind joint top scorers in the league Michael Olunga of Al Duhail and Jacinto Dala of Al Wakrah (both nine goals). The Dream Team also have the likes of Brazilian star Rafinha Alcantara and Aron Gunnarsson.
Al Duhail, Al Wakrah renew rivalry
Al Duhail and Al Wakrah have levelled the scores in this season’s QNB Stars League. Al Wakrah won the first-leg match 4-2, while Al Duhail won in the second leg recently by a 1-0 margin.
Al Duhail are leading the league standings with 29 points after recording five consecutive victories. The Red Knights have won the Qatar Cup twice. Their spearhead is Olunga.
Al Duhail’s brilliance lies in team work. Ferjani Sassi and Luis Martin are active in the midfield, and Khaled Mohammed, Yousef Ayman and Mohammed Musa are strong in defence.
Al Wakrah, who have not competed in the Qatar Cup under its new name since 2014, will be keen to grab the opportunity this time around. The Blue Wave will also be eager to put behind the disappointment of their recent losses in the league.
Their top scorer Jacinto Dala carries their main hopes and he is expected to help them regain the scoring touch that was missing in their last two league matches against Al Duhail and Al Gharafa. Al Wakrah also depend on Mohamed Benyettou, captain Ahmed Fadhel and goalkeeper Saoud Al Khater to deliver the goods.
How did the four teams qualify?
The Qatar Cup tournament format stipulates that it features the top four teams in the QNB Stars League standings.
In the 2021-2022 season, Al Sadd won the league with 62 points, followed by Al Duhail (47 points), Al Wakrah (37 points) and Al Arabi (36 points).
The tournament rule states that the first-placed team in the league championship plays fourth-placed team and second-placed team plays third-placed team.