QSL season starts; Duhail, Xavi in focus
13 Sep 2017 - 1:44
By Fawad Hussain / The Peninsula
High-octane football action is on the cards as the QNB Stars League (QSL) kicks off on Friday with 12 teams itching to give their best on the pitch.
With the newly-formed Al Duhail making their debut in prestigious league to Barca legend Xavi Hernandez featuring in his last ever season as a pro footballer, the new season promises thrilling action in the next eight months.
Al Duhail will be the centre of attention on the opening day when they will take on Qatar SC in their first-ever QSL match. Al Duhail, last season, was formed after merging two Qatar’s football giants – champions Lekhwiya and El Jaish.
Head coach Djamel Belmadi, who guided Lekhwiya to QSL title last season, will be eyeing a winning start for Al Duhail, hoping defender Lucas Mendes brings defensive stability for the new side.
Qatar SC will be banking on experienced coach Gabriel Calderon for a shock result in their opening match.
The prestigious league will begin with a match between Al Gharafa and Al Ahli, also on Friday. Al Ahli stunned Al Gharafa in their first match last season and veteran Spanish coach Joaquin Caparros, who will be managing a side from outside of Europe for the first time, will be targeting the exact result on his QSL debut.
The other match on the inaugural day will see Umm Salal taking on Al Kharaitiyat.
Both the sides concluded the previous season on high notes and must be looking to continue with their good form. Both clubs have elected to stick with their coaches for the new campaign in Mahmoud Jaber for the Orange Fortress and Ahmad Al Ajalni for the Thunders.
Qatar Cup winners Al Sadd will take on newly-promoted Al Markiya on Saturday as the second day of QSL Round 1 will also witness six teams in action.
Al Sadd captain Xavi Hernandez will target nothing less than the trophy for his side to make his last ever season as a professional footballer memorable.
Al Sadd have shown top form with their 4-2 triumph against Al Duhail for Sheikh Jassim Cup triumph and it will be a tough challenge for the Yusef Adam side to contain Wolves.
Adam will be hoping that Burkina Faso international Alain Traore can hit the ground running for his new team.
Later, Al Arabi will take on Al Sailya, in what promises to be a interesting game for the much changed Arabi team. New coach Kais Yaakoubi will be aiming to start strongly, and will be putting plenty of faith in new signing Ibrahim Khalfan who is returning to his ‘home’ club.
As for Al Sailiya they have decided to stick with the majority of their squad for the new season.
Nadir Belhadj, formally of Al Sadd, has returned to the QNB Stars League and will be raring to go to make a positive impact with his new side.
The final match of the first round will see Al Khor take on title challengers Al Rayyan.
The Knights have turned to French coach Laurent Banide to guide the side this term and after a couple of years battling relegation they will be hoping for a positive start to the campaign against Al Rayyan.
Al Rayyan, meanwhile, have strengthened significantly in the off season. Moroccan striker Abdulrazak Hamdullah is the most eye-catching signing of the summer and will be charged with firing Al Rayyan to title glory.