Having been crowned the champions of the Qatar Stars League seems a quite distant past for Lekhwiya. Since that high, they have been thumped 0-5 by Qatar Sports Club in the QSL and then were knocked out of the AFC Champions League after an embarrassing 0-5 loss to UAE’s Al Ain. But now the QSL champions have a chance to redeem themselves with the Qatar Cup which begins tomorrow. The pursuit of the exquisitely designed Cup will see them take on Al Sailiya today at the Suheim Bin Hamad stadium in the second match of the day.
The first match of the day promises to be a keenly contested affair with Al Sadd taking on El Jaish. The Qatar Cup is a knockout tournament involving the top four teams of the QSL. The winners of today’s matches will play the final next Saturday. The matches will not have extra time and will be decided on penalties after the completion of regular time.
Back to the teams then. Lekhwiya have the relatively easy match, taking on Sailiya. Lekhwiya have played three matches against their opponents this season having drawn two and won one. But considering their recent dip in form, the QSL champions will have to pull up their socks and put in a better performance.
“The important thing in football is to stand up and show everybody what you can do, my players where not present on the pitch in our champions league match. When we won the Emir Cup we were present and making ourselves felt and so we want that feeling again,” said Lekhwiya coach Eric Gerets
“I think we will play an opponent that makes our life difficult, this team is very hungry. We have a good team too and I think we are capable of doing much better and finish this season in a very good way,” the Belgian added.
Karim Boudiaf, the midfield metronome for Lekhwiya said: “We know that we are facing a tough team and we hope that we can overcome them to put the AFC Champions League exit behind us.”
Gerets then said, “We will use the new tournament as rehabilitation for our recent bad performances, we can show everyone that we are champions for a reason and so we should make it our trophy and prove we are the best in Qatar. I sat with my players and for 45 minutes the players spoke their mind and I felt it was a good meeting, we identified some of our issues and hopefully the team will prove itself in the new Qatar Cup competition.”
Sailiya head coach Sami Trabelsi said this was a good opportunity to show everyone that finishing fourth was no accident and a great opportunity for some good match ups.
“It’s a good feeling to be in the top four and participate in this important cup. I hope that we will be able to continue in the right way and give the fans what they want. We are here because we honestly deserve to be.”
Trabelsi then gave some observations on their opponent Lekhwiya. “The cup will be different and on paper there is a big difference but in reality we will see on the pitch. We don’t view ourselves as the weakest of the four teams. If you want to consider us the smallest then I don’t agree. We have proven ourselves this season. Playing Lekhwiya is always difficult, teams such as Lekhwiya have the capacity and strength to rebuild and come back stronger.”
As for Sadd, the Qatar Cup is a chance to win silverware this season after finishing third in the QSL. “This is a big opportunity because we lost the QSL title so we really need this win but this opponent is tough. We’ve been battling with them all season and hopefully we will be victorious come Saturday,” said Sadd coach Hossein Ammouta.
“We had a session yesterday to try to motivate players and I told them that they could be the first team to win the cup with its new name and new design and this I am sure motivated the players,” the Moroccan added.
Assad Shebbi the assistant coach of El Jaish stepped in for the absent Nabil Maâloul. “We know we are facing a good opponent but we are looking forward to the game against Al Sadd. During the league we beat them twice but in the cup we will go into it thinking we are back at zero so that we stay humble and are focusing a 100 per cent on the match.”
He said that three players are likely to miss the clash. “Abdualrahman Abubaker, Mohammed Mothnani and Mohammed Muntari will probably miss the game, as they were all substituted due to injury in their AFC Champions league match last night.”
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