By Sports Reporter/Doha
The Qatar Derby between Al Sadd and Al Arabi will highlight the QNB Stars League’s Week 16 action, with the marquee class taking place today. Meanwhile, league leaders Al Duhail will take on Al Shahania, while second placed Al Rayyan take on Al Ahli.
But the focus will be on Sadd-Arabi encounter at the Al Sadd Stadium. Reigning champions Al Sadd, who have won both titles so far on offer this season (Sheikh Jassim Cup and Qatar Cup), are third in the standings with 31 points, five behind Duhail.
They dropped two crucial points last week after being held 2-2 by lowly Umm Salal and will be keen to bounce back to title contention.
Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez said the match against Arabi is ‘not a final’ but they cannot afford to lose points. “We do not consider Al Arabi match as a final, there are still seven games ahead of us, which we consider as finals. We cannot lose any points. A huge match is in front of us against a physically strong team, whose level has improved a lot recently. We are ready and we will fight until the end of the season to win the league title,” the Spanish coach said.
Sadd will continue to miss the injured trio of Hassan al-Haydos, Salem al-Hajri and Ali Asad, while Al Arabi will be without their top scorer Hamdi Harbaoui, also due to injury.
“We have injuries and suspensions, but that is not an excuse. We will make the best efforts in all local and international tournaments that we play in, especially because we compete for all titles,” Xavi said.
Al Arabi, under Heimir Hallgrimsson, are fifth with 20 points. Sadd had beaten Arabi 6-1 in the first leg and Hallgrimsson was confident that his side is better prepared to take on the reigning champions.
“Our first-leg match with Al Sadd is not a good memory for us, as we lost it by a big margin, so we have to learn from mistakes in order not to repeat them and come up with a positive result. I think that my team is ready and I am looking forward to see a strong reaction from our players,” said Hallgrimsson.
Al Duhail, who increased their lead on top with 36 points, will face Al Shahania, who are lying bottom of the table with nine points. Al Duhail’s form had dipped a bit recently and a change at the helm happened, with Moroccan Walid Regragui replacing Portuguese Rui Faria.
However, they bounced back by defeating Al Wakrah last week to increase their gap on top of the table to four points with second-placed Al Rayyan and five points with holders Al Sadd.
Jose Murcia-coached Al Shahania are last in the standings with nine points and it is time they lifted their game in order to stay in the top flight. They did well last week by holding Al Arabi to a goalless draw but a big challenge awaits them today.
The Al Sadd Stadium will also witness Al Rayyan (second with 32 points) versus Al Ahli (eighth with 18 points) encounter.
Tomorrow, Al Sailiya (sixth with 20 points) will lock horns with Al Gharafa (fourth with 25 points). It will be followed by the game between Al Wakrah (seventh with 19 points) and Umm Salal (11th with 10 points). Al Khor (10th with 11 points) will host Qatar SC (ninth with 16 points) in Saturday’s only fixture.
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