Doha: Al Sadd vs Al Rayyan has always been the most sought-after fixture in Qatar football and it’s going to be no different this time, especially with the Wolves looking to reclaim the title which they last won in 2012-13 season.
Al Duhail, formerly known as Lekhwiya have dominated the Qatar Stars League in recent years winning six titles in the last eight years with Rayyan the only other team able to break their monopoly, in 2015-16.
This time though, early form suggests it’s going to be Sadd’s year, but Rayyan are more than capable of having their say in the title race.
Even though Rayyan lead the table with 11 points, Sadd, coached by Jesualdo Ferreira, look favourites in the fixture termed Qatar Clasico.
Ferreira, 72, has brought an air of stability to the side and the arrival of Atletico Madrid captain Gabi, who joined his more illustrious compatriot Xavi Hernandez in the Wolves midfield, has helped them immensely.
Duhail seem to have lost their way a bit after a stupendous last season, crashing out of the AFC Champions League at the hands of Persepolis, and Sadd would be keen to cash in.
“This game is important for us because of the competition for the top spot. I expect it to be an open game because both teams have the desire and capability to play an intense attacking game,” said Ferreira at the pre-match press conference. “I call upon all the fans of Sadd to come in huge numbers and outnumber the Rayyan fans.”
Rayyan coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena, who replaced Michael Laudrup, started by winning the Sheikh Jassim where the Lions beat Duhail on penalties.
The former Argentinian national team left-back who had long professional stints with top Argentinian club Boca Juniors and Spain’s Villarreal, though is likely to find Xavi and co a different cup of tea.
Baghdad Bounedjah is likely to be the main threat for Rayyan and he already has 11 goals under his belt.
“We are ready for this game. It is well known that the Clasico is a big game and there will be a lot of fans. We hope to turn out in the best possible way,” said Bounedjah.
“I expect there will be a high level of football from both teams. We hope we will be highly focused because we know that it will be tougher for Sadd, as we are coming after a tough game in the AFC Champions League.”
“This is also a tough game and we need to deal with it in the proper manner,” added the Algerian star. “We hope to make our fans happy and get the win in this crucial game.”
Bounedjah scored in both ties against Rayyan last season and asked if he could repeat that, he said: “I’m striving for a win. Of course, my duty is to score and I will obviously hope to score but what’s important is that the team wins.”
Sadd will miss the services of Qatari forward Hassan Al Haydous who picked up an ankle injury in the Champions League match against Esteghlal on Monday.