Doha, Qatar: The last time Al Duhail lost in the Qatar Stars League was in 2017 February, to Umm Salal, who beat the Djamel Belmadi coached side 3-1 thanks to Yannick Sagbo’s double.
That was 22 months back and since then, they have been untouchable in the league and is now on a 41-match unbeaten run.
But that looks in danger now as arch-rivals Al Sadd hone their weapons for Tuesday’s top of the table clash.
A couple of weeks back, Duhail were well in control of the league, enjoying an eight-point gap over Sadd even though Jesualdo Ferreira’s side had an extra game in hand. But at the blink of an eye Duhail’s lead is suddenly just a point and Sadd, who are scoring for fun, are breathing down their neck.
Duhail lost points in their last two matches in a 2-2 draw to Al Rayyan and 1-1 stalemate with Qatar SC, and coach Nabil Maaloul was not exactly brimming with confidence.
“There was not much time to prepare for this game against Al Sadd. This is an important game for both teams and the winners will have an edge in the race to the 2018-19 season QNB Stars League title,” said Maaloul at the pre-match press conference.
“Our team has a few injury worries and we did not have many options in our last match against Qatar SC, which ended in a draw. I feel our players will rise to the occasion against Al Sadd and prove that we are the leaders not by default.
“Both sides know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and the match has plenty at stake,” said the Tunisian coach.
Even a draw will help Duhail get back to their rhythm but a defeat will be a big blow to their title aspirations.
Sadd blew away their last two opponents — thrashing Al Gharafa 8-1 before beating Al Shahania 4-1 and with Baghdad Bounedjah firing all cylinders and captain Xavi Hernandez back from injury they would be looking to settle a few scores will Duhail.
Last year, even though Sadd beat Duhail to win the season-opening Sheikh Jassim Cup, in the league, when it mattered the most the Red Knights had the upper hand winning 2-1 in the first match and drawing 3-3 in the second.
Duhail would be handicapped by injuries to Nam Tae-Hee, who is out for the season after suffering a knee ligament tear, while another influential player Luiz Martin hobbled off the field in the match against Qatar SC.
The are no such issues for Sadd, who are basking in some personal glories as well.
While leftback Abdulkarim Hassan was chosen as the AFC player of the year, Bounedjah was the top-scorer at the AFC Champions League. The Algerian also broke Brazilian Clemerson’s 11-year -old scoring record when to registered his 28th goal against Al Shahania last week.
Akram Afif, even though is not scoring as much as he would have liked, is also in scintillating form and Duhail awaits a worrying time at Al Sadd Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Sadd coach Ferreira said the players did not have to be told about the importance of the match.
“A game like this does not need any preparation for the players personally and everyone knows how important it is to win this. We need to win so that we can lead by two points,” said Ferreira.