Doha, Qatar: The Qatar Stars League has not even started but Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd already look clear favourites to defend their title which they won so emphatically last season.
Sadd’s first three competitive games of the season against Al Duhail — two in AFC Champions League last 16 before they met in the Sheikh Jassim Cup last weekend — suggest Xavi has settled into his new role as a coach as easily as he would have slid one of his trademark defence-splitting passes.
And Xavi would be looking for all three points when Sadd meet promoted side Al Wakrah on Wednesday, in the opening match of the new season.
“So far we are very pleased with what we have done during the Asian Championship and Sheikh Jassim Cup, the league is a new tournament and Sadd have important goals, said Xavi.
“Al-Wakrah is a very strong team and has excellent players, both local and foreign. I know the Al-Wakrah coach well; he has an offensive style similar to Al-Sadd’s. We must continue working and be ready to give our best.”
“We are going to play at our home stadium. We have studied Al-Wakrah well and we hope there won’t be any surprises. The start is very important in the league.”
“My philosophy, which I learned while playing for Barcelona and Spain, is to have possession of the ball. The players are applying it and I hope they continue to learn.”
Sadd will be without their talismanic striker Baghdad Bounjah, but Xavi said they do not rely on any particular player.
“Baghdad Bounjah is an incredible player in terms of performance and always makes the difference in the offensive side but there are many distinguished players in the team who can create opportunities,” he said.
In the second match of the opening day, Sadd’s main challengers Al Duhail SC take on Qatar SC.
Duhail coach Rui Faria must be already under pressure after losing to Sadd in the AFC Champions League as well as in the Sheikh Jassim Cup.
Duhial are not used to finishing as second best and Faria need to pull up his socks quickly to challenge the Wolves.
In the other matches in the opening week, Al Gharafa take on Al Shahania, Al Sailiya play Al Khor, Al Arabi take on Al Ahli and Al Rayyan meet Umm Salal.