Umm Salal... Ambitious, but challenges galore
Umm Salal must be making the most of the ongoing break in the QNB Stars League by gearing up themselves ahead of the rest of the season as they are keen to finish among the top four, an achievement they missed out on last season.
Umm Salal are currently eighth with 17 points after 15 rounds of action before the QNB Stars League was stopped. The tournament will resume after the Asian Cup in the UAE (5th January to 1st February).
It may be recalled that The Orange Fortress had narrowly lost to Al Gharafa in the fight for the fourth spot in the last round of 2017-18 QNB Stars League. And The Cheetahs went on to play in the elite Qatar Cup.
Umm Salal have only managed to win four matches so far, while they lost six and drew five. They have a goal difference of -10 (27 goals for and 17 against), the same as sixth-placed Al Arabi.
Umm Salal started off their league campaign on a losing note as they suffered a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Al Sailiya.
They then drew 1-1 with Al Rayyan, a creditable achievement, before registering their first victory with a 4-1 win over Al Ahli.
However, the next game saw them crash 1-5 to Al Arabi. After this, Umm Salal completed a hat-trick of victories (3-2 against Al Gharafa, 2-1 against Al Kharaitiyat and 1-0 against Al Khor).
Since then, they have yet to record a win in the tournament.
Umm Salal started the season under French coach Laurent Banide, who helped them to some good results. But the downward slide saw him being replaced by the team’s Algerian assistant coach Bouziane Benaraiba, before the club appointed Spaniard Raul Caneda.
The team management had retained the services of three foreign professionals —Ivorian striker Yannick Sagbo, Syrian forward Mahmoud Al Mawas and Moroccan defender Adel Rhaili — and signed Nigerian striker Christian Osaguona ahead of the new season.
However, new signing Osaguona could not serve the team well as he was nursing an injury and his contract was terminated after the end of QNB Stars League’s first leg.
The squad included Qatari players Bilal Mohammed, Lawrence Qawye and Sami Sabit, while renewing the contract with Juad Ahnash, Adel Alawi, Thiab Annabi, Ismail Mahmoud and Ismail Ibrahim.
Umm Salal will certainly be looking to take maximum advantage of the remaining seven matches.