AL RAYYAN | LIONS | FOUNDED IN 1967
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH SAOUD BIN KHALED AL THANI
- COACH JORGE FOSSATI (URU)
SERGIO GARCIA (ESP)
Garcia was the second biggest Spanish player, after Xavi Hernandez, to have reached Qatar last season, but he upstaged his former Barcelona team-mate. Garcia, who joined from Espanyol, quickly got into the groove and proved a vital player in Rayyan’s frontline. The 33-year-old ended up with 16 goals, second behind Rodrigo Tabata and, more importantly, orchestrated their attack when the naturalised Qatari missed a few games in the crucial stage of the second phase owing to injury. Garcia’s good form attracted the interest of clubs including Al Sadd, but Rayyan managed to retain him. He will be eager to deliver right from the start.
VICTOR CACERES (PAR)
Caceres was easily the best holding midfielder in the league last season. The Paraguayan was an imposing presence, nipping rival moves in the bud and initiating several attacking maneuvers. He also ably carried out his duties when Fossati deployed him in the centre of defence. And he scored six goals as well.
GONZALO VIERA (URU)
KOH MYONG-JIN (KOR)
Expectations weigh heavy on Fossati and his Lions
Al Rayyan, who regained their place in the Qatar Stars League last season after a hiatus, surprised all when they went all the way to grab the title. Other than their winning spree, their attractive style of play also caught the imagination of the fans. The Lions scored the most number of goals (69) and conceded the least (23) among all 14 teams. Rodrigo Tabata winning the top scorer and best player awards was the icing on their cake.
Going into the new season, the Rayyan management would be hoping the Lions surpass their last season’s performance and win a cup or two. Rayyan have retained all players from last season’s expensively-assembled squad, with their strength in depth expected to be tested more when the AFC Champions League begins early next year.
Rayyan have a balanced squad, but their failure to win even a single game since clinching the league title raised a few eyebrows. They were far from their best in the cup tournaments.
Jorge Fossati, who is a shrewd tactician, should be aware of it. He also knows that their fans will not settle for anything less than the title.
EL JAISH | SOLDIERS | FOUNDED IN 2007
- PRESIDENT HE HAMAD BIN ALI AL ATTIYAH
- COACH SABRI LAMOUCHI (FRA)
Romarinho has improved a lot under Sabri Lamouchi. He can play as a centre forward, which he will do in the absence of injured Moroccan spearhead Abderrazak Hamdallah in the first phase of the season, operate in a withdrawn role creating play and also along the wings.
The diminutive player, who joined Jaish two seasons ago reportedly on a €7.5m deal after playing nearly 150 matches for Sao Paulo giants Corinthians, has all the attributes of a Brazilian striker. He is a hardworking player and has been a consistent performer for the Armymen so far.
SEDOU KEITA (MLI)
Keita joined El Jaish on a six-month deal. The 36-year-old, the first Malian to play for Catalan giants Barcelona, spending productive four seasons there, is a versatile midfielder and can play as both a central or defensive midfielder. In a young-blooded Jaish side, his experience will give balance to the Armymen as they look to march on right from the start.
LUCAS MENDES (BRA)
SARDOR RASHIDOV (UZB)
Reinforced Soldiers ready to launch another title bid
EL JAISH began and ended last season on a convincing note, but lost out on their chances of winning the league title in between, eventually finishing as runners-up.
“The small details sometimes make the difference. If you remember, we had played without our specialist defenders for almost three months as they were injured,” said Jaish coach Sabri Lamouchi.
Jaish, however, have found him to be capable of delivering them their maiden league shield as they tied him to the club with a new contract until 2018.
Lamouchi, who joined Jaish in January, 2015, has a big, strong squad at his disposal, with the management further reinforcing it in the pre-season by adding Qatari players Mohammed Abdulrab (midfielder), Hamza Senhadji (forward) and Dame Traore (defender).
Jaish have retained all their foreign recruits — Abderrazak Hamdallah, Romarinho, Lucas Mendez and Sardor Rashidov.
Hamdallah will miss the first phase of the league owing to a knee injury and, as a cover, Lamouchi has signed former Barcelona and Roma midfielder Seydou Keita on a six-month deal.
AL SADD | WOLVES | FOUNDED IN 1969
- PRESIDENT HH SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN KHALIFA AL THANI
- COACH JESUALDO FERREIRA (POR)
XAVI HERNANDEZ (ESP)
Xavi will be a tad disappointed with the impact he made at Al Sadd in his debut season. After winning several honours with Barcelona, it might have been disappointing for the Catalan to end without a single trophy. But he is confident this time. “The preparation has been fantastic. The team is feeling very good. The coaching staff has been working hard. We’ve some young players who’ve a bright future and everyone is putting in a lot of effort to give their best,” said Xavi.
JUGURTHA HAMROUN (ALG)
Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira decided to strengthen their frontline after parting ways with defender Nadir Beldadj and has brought in Algerian midfielder Hamroun. The 27-year-old joined Sadd from Steaua Bucharest on a one-year loan deal. Hamroun, who was born in Algeria but relocated to France at a young age, has prior experience playing in Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania.
BAGHDAD BOUNEDJGAH (ALG)
MORTEZA POURALIGANJI (IRI)
Captain Xavi needs to play a more prominent role
When Al Sadd signed Xavi Hernandez, one of the bestplayers the game has ever produced, from Barcelona last season, they expected the Spaniard to add more creativity to the midfield, lead from the front and help them regain the league title. But it turned out to be a rather forgettable season for Sadd as they ended without any title.
The team’s indifferent form saw coach Housseine Amouta giving way to Jesualdo Ferreira. The Portuguese’s start was not smooth either, but he managed to steady the ship. The former Porto boss replaced striker Muriqui and defender Lee Jung-Soo with Baghdad Bounedjgah and Morteza Pouraliganji respectively in January as Sadd finished third in the league table.
In the pre-season, Sadd parted ways with defender Nadir Belhadj and signed fellow Algerian attacking midfielder Jugurtha Hamroun while Qatar international Hamad Ismail has rejoined from Al Rayyan.
Ferreira will be under pressure to deliver the league shield this time. Sadd’s problem again should be lack of enough experienced Qatari players on the bench. Khalfan Ibrahim has not been his usual self while experienced Talal Al Balooshi has left for Al Arabi.
LEKHWIYA | COPS | FOUNDED IN 1938
- PRESIDENT HE SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN NASSER BIN KHALIFA AL THANI
- COACH DJAMEL BELMADI (ALG)
YOUSSEF EL ARABI (MAR)
El Arabi became one of the prized possessions in the QSL this season when Lekhwiya roped him from La Liga club Granada, where he had a productive spell. Belmadi had struggled due to the absence of goals from his strikers last season and he would expect El Arabi to find his scoring touch from the very start. The Moroccan international, who played 130 games for Granada, also knows Gulf football having played for Al Hilal. “Lekhwiya are a big team. With the support of my team-mates, I want to score consistently and win titles. I want to achieve my personal goals as well as that of the club,” said El Arabi.
NAM TAE-HEE (KOR)
Nam is arguably the best South Korean player in the Qatar Stars League. The 25-year-old attacking midfielder, who joined from French club Valenciennes in 2012, has been a consistent performer ever since and has played a pivotal role in their successes. The diminutive player has excellent dribbling skills and is good at executing set-pieces. The Korean international’s creativity upfront is key to Lekhwiya’s chances of regaining the league shield.
YOUSSEF MSAKNI (TUN)
CHICO FLORES (ESP)
Cops are keen to make up for last season’s failure
Lekhwiya may have ended the season on a triumphant note by winning their maiden Emir’s Cup, but looking back, the club’s fans would describe the season as far from successful.
Since they won promotion to the top flight in the 2010-11 season, Lekhwiya have won four league titles, but last time they not only missed out on it but finished fourth, their poorest ever standing. They lost out on even a play-off berth for the AFC Champions League, a tournament the management desperately wants to win.
Lekhwiya have retained most of the players from last season and have added Moroccan forward Youssef El Arabi from Spanish side Granada. In Tunisian Youssef Msakni and South Korean Nam Tae-Hee, they have two skilful attacking players who can create problems for any opposition while Spaniard Chico Flores brings solidity and experience to their rear, having played at leading clubs including Swansea.
Lekhwiya have the most number of Qatar internationals in their ranks, which speaks of their might. Coach Djamel Belmadi, however, should be a tad worried with it considering that they will spend a lot of time with the national team owing to the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
UMM SALAL | ORANGE FORTRESS | FOUNDED IN 1979
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH HAMAD BIN NASSER AL THANI
- COACH BULENT UYGUN (TUR)
YANNICK SAGBO (CIV)
Yannick Sagbo reached Umm Salal as a Hull City discard, a bit overweight and slow, with critics expressing doubt that he was a futile investment. However, the six-foot tall forward turned out to be their key performer last season as he netted 13 goals other than creating play often.
The 28-year-old Ivorian is keen to repeat his scoring act this time. “I want to score 15 goals this season, this is my target. I want to help Umm Salal,” said Sagbo. “I like Doha. It’s a small place, but everyone here has been friendly since I’ve arrived here. I’ve been welcomed and I feel at home with Umm Salal.”
ANDERSON MARTINS (BRA)
Brazilian defender Anderson Martins joined Umm Salal from El Jaish on a season-long deal. Martins, who plied his trade with Al Gharafa last season, also on loan, is a ball playing centre back and is also good at set-pieces. His dip in form cost him his place at Jaish. The former Vasco and Corinthians player will be eager to get back to his best at Umm Salal, whose strength has been their tight defence.
THA’ER BAWAB (JOR)
Consistent men in orange again eye top-four finish
Umm Salal have been one of the most consistent sides last season and had they managed to convert a few of their 11 draws into victories, they could have finished even as the runners-up.
Halfway through last season, the men in orange had lost only two matches while drawing six. Eyeing a top-four finish, the club offloaded out-of-form French striker Jeremie Aliadiere and Iranian holding midfielder Andranik Teymourian and brought in forwards Mounir El Hamdaoui and Sanzhar Tursunov, but they could not make desired impact.
The 2009 AFC Champions League semifinalists have changed three of their foreign players in the pre-season. While Yannick Sagbo stayed, defender Anderson Martins, midfielder Alef and striker Tha’er Bawab have all joined.
Among Qatari players, talented young winger Hilal Mohammed and seasoned full-back Waleed Mohiyudeen are the new names.
The club management should be satisfied with a repeat of their fifth-place finish while making it to the top four will be considered as a big achievement.
Umm Salal will start their campaign with a match against Al Khor on Friday.
AL AHLI | BRIGADIERS | FOUNDED IN 1950
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH AHMED BIN HAMAD AL THANI
- COACH LUKA BONACIC (CRO)
FIRMIN MUBELE (CON)
To his embarrassment, Mubele found repeated comparisons with Alain Dioko while replacing his Congolese compatriot as Al Ahli’s spearhead. Mubele who joined from native side Vita Club, had reached Doha after impressing in the African Champions League. While the 22-year-old looked good with his touches and dribbling skills, his inability to find the back of the net continued to haunt him as he ended up scoring just eight goals, 18 less than Dioko managed in the previous season.
Ahli have kept their faith in Mubele, who had formed a key partnership with Meshaal Abdullah up front even though the management will insist on the diminutive player to improve his scoring record.
MUJTABA JABBARI (IRI)
The former Iran midfielder has been a consistent performer for Ahli and he will be keen to start from where he had left off last season. The 33-year-old, with a great ability to read the game, has tremendous ball control and passing ability as well. Jabbari is sure to get a lot of prominence in Bonacic’s scheme of things as he knows the player from his days in Iran.
EJMAN MONTAZERI (IRI)
KISITO YESSOH (CIV)
Mid-table finish could make Brigadiers happy
Al Ahli took time to fill the void created by prolific scorer Alain Dioko’s departure to Al Gharafa last season.
And with the team staring at relegation, the management changed former Montenegro coach Zlatko Kranjcar and gave the reins to Qatari Yousef Adam.
The move worked as the Brigadiers pulled off five straight victories including against former winners Lekhwiya and newly-crowned champions Al Rayyan to finish a creditable sixth.
Yousef moved to Al Arabi as assistant coach in the close season with Luka Bonacic taking over the club.
The Croat is familiar with Qatar football, having managed Al Shahaniya when they were in the top flight last time.
On the player front, Ahli have retained Congolese striker Firmin Mubele and also kept faith in the Iranian duo of Mojtaba Jabbari and Pejman Montazeri. Ivorian Kisito Yessoh is the new player. Mouhcine Iajour, who played on loan from Qatar Sports Club in the second phase last season, left for Al Khor, but they have retained talented Qatari midfielder Ali Qadri.
The Ahli top officials should be happy with a mid-table finish.
AL SAILIYA | PEREGRINES | FOUNDED IN 1995
- PRESIDENT ABDULLAH EL EIDA
- COACH SAMI TRABELSI (TUN)
FAOUZI AYESH (BAH)
Faouzi has been Sailiya’s most lethal weapon for many seasons now and Sami Trabelsi is once again sure to weave his strategy around him. The Bahrain international is a full-back, but he can operate in the midfield and even play as a striker. Trabelsi deployed the 30-year-old in midfield last season. He did well in attack while the team was in possession of the ball and in defence when they lost it. He also excelled in executing their set-pieces. An aggressive player, Faouzi brings winning mentality to any team and has the ability to singlehandedly decide the outcome of matches. He will be once again key to Sailiya’s fortunes.
PAUL ALO’O EFOULO (CMR)
Sailiya signed Cameroonian striker Efoulo from Saudi Arabian club Al Taawoun on a one-year deal. The 32-year-old has spent most of his one-and-a-half decade career in Europe, mainly in France. “I’m happy to have joined Al Sailiya and play in the Qatar Stars League. I hope to meet the expectations of the club, which made it possible for me to get a new experience in my career,” said Efoulo, who had played the last three seasons for Taawoun.
DRAGOS GREGORE (ROM)
RAOUL LOE (CMR)
Peregrines confident of putting up a fighting show
Al Sailiya had a reasonably steady season which helped them end up a deserving seventh.
It was an improved position for Sami Trabelsi’s men, who were 11th in the previous season. The Sailiya management acknowledged the Tunisian’s good work by handing him a new three-year deal.
A mid-table finish will be once again the target for Sailiya, who have retained three of their foreign players — Dragos Gregore, Raoul Loe and Faouzi Ayesh. Cameroonian striker Paul Alo’o Efoulo, who replaced Carlos Alberto, is the only new face.
Sailiya greatly benefited from the loan deals of Abdulkader Ilyas (El Jaish), Abdulkarim Ali and Sayaf Al Korbi (both Al Rayyan) last season, and the management will once again turn to bigger clubs as they have only a limited player pool.
Trabelsi sounded optimistic.
“We’ve players with skills while collectively we’re a competitive team. I believe in team work and what we need to achieve straightaway is stability. We’ve prepared well for the competition and I promise we’ll be a tough team to beat once again,” said Trabelsi.
AL ARABI | REDS | FOUNDED IN 1952
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH KHALIFA BIN HAMAD AL THANI
- COACH GERARDO PELUSSO (URU)
LUIS JIMENEZ (CHI)
Being a Chilean international, Jimenez might have a fascination for red. And Arabi fans will expect him to turn red hot this season as they approach the new season with plenty of hope. The former Inter Milan and Fiorentina player, who also had Premier League experience with West Ham United, has a fair idea about football in the region, having spent the last five years with Dubai clubs Al Ahli and Al Nasr. Jimenez hopes the big number of Arabi fans at the league matches will provide added motivation for the team. “My aim is to continue winning trophies. I hope that we can do it with Al Arabi. I think that the fans are vital in pushing the team onto glory.” said Jimenez.
Brazilian striker Paulinho, who also holds an Italian passport, joined Al Arabi after spending his entire career in Italy. Though he took time to adjust to Qatar football, the 30-year-old steadily improved and now is one of the sharpest strikers in Qatar. He scored 11 goals last season and also impressed while playing in a withdrawn role. As Arabi try to push for league success this season, they have found Paulinho the man to spearhead their challenge.
MOUSTAPHA SALL (SEN)
IMOH EZEKIEL (NIG)
Reds have a team capable of challenging for the title
Al Arabi fans are upbeat as they believe they have a team capable of ending their two-decade title drought. But considering the inconsistency that has plagued the Reds over the years, not many will place their money on them. Yet, the rivals will take them far more seriously as they have invested a lot on new players.
Arabi looked capable of even a top-four finish at one stage last season, but ended up a disappointing eighth, which cost Gianfranco Zola his job. In newcomer Gerardo Pelusso, they have an experienced coach who can meet the club’s lofty targets.
Arabi have changed three of their four foreign recruits, with only Brazilian striker Paulinho staying. Chilean Luis Jimenez, who also holds a Palestinian passport, is their Asian professional while Nigerian forward Imoh Ezekiel has come back. Senegalese Moustapha Sall is the other overseas recruit.
Among Qatari players, Mohammed Juma, Wagner Ribeiro, Talal Al Balooshi, Rami Fayez and Mohammed Mubarak are the most notable names while Qatar international Ahmed Maksoud is expected to join soon.
AL GHARAFA | CHEETAHS | FOUNDED IN 1979
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH JASSIM BIN THAMER AL THANI
- COACH PEDRO CAIXINHA (POR)
VLADIMIR WEISS (SLO)
Weiss is a skillful winger who, when in form, is a treat to watch. After excelling with Lekhwiya for two years, the Slovak international moved to Gharafa on a swap deal with Alain Dioko last January. Though he occasionally came up with flashes of brilliance, Weiss did not get the desired support from his team-mates. Yet he impressed while linking up with Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth. With Yassine Chaikhaoui back from injury and Han Kook-Young too joining, Gharafa’s attack is expected to be more sharper and coach Pedro Caixinha would expect Weiss to score more, especially in big matches.
KRISZTIAN NEMETH (HUN)
A soft-spoken player, Nemeth made a rather silent entry into Gharafa’s ranks from USA’s Sporting Kansas City last January, but made a sudden impact and scored seven goals. The 27-year-old Hungary international is comfortable on the ball, lethal inside the box and has great sense of positioning. Pedro Caixinha will want him to keep going right from the start as it will be key to their top-four finish.
YASSINE CHAIKHAOUI (TUN)
HAN KOOK-YOUNG (KOR)
Cheetahs desperate for at least a top-four finish
Al Gharafa were the undisputed kings of Qatar football when they completed a hat-trick of league titles in 2009-10 season. But with the arrival of new teams like Lekhwiya and El Jaish, they lost their champion status. While traditional forces like Al Sadd and Al Rayyan have managed to regain the league, Gharafa seem to have forgotten the winning ways. They have been trying too hard, frequently changing coaches and players, but even a top-four finish has appeared to be too much of a task for the Cheetahs.
They are ready for yet another onslaught. The club management has retained Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha and three of their foreign players — winger Vladimir Weiss, striker Krisztian Nemeth and midfielder Yassine Chaikhaoui. South Korean midfielder Han Kook-Young, who joined from relegated Qatar Sports Club, is the only fresh face. No major Qatari names have joined so far this season.
Caixinha has been emphasising on hard work since he joined midway through last season, and he will have to deliver right from the start as the management will be desperate for a top-four finish.
AL KHOR | KNIGHTS | FOUNDED IN 1951
- PRESIDENT HASSAN JUMA AL MOHANNADI
- COACH JEAN FERNANDEZ (FRA)
MOUHCINE IAJOUR (MAR)
The disappointing wastefulness of Iajour in the first phase of the league was one reason that led to Qatar Sports Club’s relegation to the Second Division. And hardly any eyebrow was raised when comeback coach Sebastiao Lazaroni sent him on loan to Al Ahli. But Iajour impressed at Ahli and scored eight goals, and played a major role in their five-match winning streak. His fine job caught the attention of Al Khor, who found him to be the ideal replacement for long-serving Brazilian striker Julio Cesar. And coach Jean Fernandez will expect him to deliver straightaway.
Coaches have come and gone at Khor, but Madson’s position seems to be intact. The diminutive attacking midfielder is rightly described as a pocket dynamo. The former Vasco and Santos player, who joined Al Khor five seasons ago, has great ball control, excellent dribbling skills and is a player to watch. He can also create danger from set-pieces. His skills are once again important if Khor are to stay away from relegation zone this season.
SULTAN AL ENEZI (KUW)
Realistic Knights aim to stay in the top flight
UNDER new coach Jean Fernandez, Al Khor took some time to find their footing in the competition last season. At the end of the first phase, Khor were 12th in the table with just three wins and as many draws. They collected 21 points in the second to finish 10th, the same as the previous season.
Khor have kept their faith in Frenchman Fernandez, perhaps after the work he did with their defence, which conceded only 13 goals in as many matches in the second phase. His target will be to keep the team in the top flight.
Khor have parted ways with the Brazilian duo of Julio Cesar and Marco Antoniou while their countryman Madson has been retained. Moroccan forward Mouhcine Iajour has joined from relegated Qatar Sports Club while they have a new Asian professional in defender in Sultan Al Enezi.
The clubs is on the lookout for a fourth foreigner.
Qatari players Abdulkader Ilyas and Saleh Al Yazidi, both from El Jaish, are two worthy additions, considering that they have lost Hilal Mohammed and Waleed Mohiyudeen to Umm Salal.
Khor will begin their campaign with a match against Umm Salal on Friday.
AL WAKRAH | BLUE WAVES | FOUNDED IN 1959
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH KHALIFA BIN HASSAN AL THANI
- COACH JOSE MAURICIO (URU)
PABLO OLIVERA (URU)
Wakrah signed Pablo Olivera from Venezuelan club Deportivo Tachira on a one-year deal. The former River Plate hitman has big shoes to fill as he will be replacing Argentinian Sebastian Saez as the spearhead. Olivera said he was aware of the task. “I know I’m replacing a player who was the club’s top scorer and that puts a lot of pressure on my shoulders. However, I enjoy this challenge and believe I can contribute in my own right,” said Olivera.
“I promise to score plenty of goals this season, and push this club to the next level. I believe that we can achieve great things at Wakrah. But we need the support of the fans,” he added.
MOUHCINE MOUTOUALI (MAR)
Several Moroccan players have done well for Wakrah over the years. Moutouali is the latest in that series and has been their playmaker for the last two seasons. The 30-year-old, who joined from native side Raja Casablanca, is a hardworking and committed player with impressive skills. He will have added responsibility this season after coach Jose Mauricio decided to add a foreign striker at the expense of a midfielder.
ALI REHEIMA (IRQ)
PABLO ZEBALLOS (PAR)
Mauricio’s men could feel the heat right from start
IT WAS the same old story for Al Wakrah last season. The two-time champions just about managed to stay in the Qatar Stars League,
ensuring their safety only in the penultimate week. Argentinian striker Sebastian Saez once again turned their saviour, netting 17 of their total 34 goals.
Wakrah coach Jose Mauricio will be disappointed that the club allowed him to move to Emirates Club.
With four teams getting relegated this season, Wakrah will feel the heat right from the beginning and a bad start to the campaign will put Mauricio under pressure. The Uruguayan, however, has finalised his foreign recruits quite early.
After parting ways with Portuguese midfielder Ruben Amorim, Mauricio decided to strengthen the attack, with Pablo Zeballos (Paraguay) and Pablo Olivera (Uruguay) coming in.
Moroccan attacking midfielder Mouhcine Moutouali and Iraqi defender Ali Reheima have stayed.
Al Wakrah have a relatively strong bench, though no major Qatari names have joined the club this time around.
They begin their campaign with a match El Jaish at the Lekhwiya Stadium on Saturday.
AL KHARAITIYAT | Thunders | FOUNDED IN 1996
- PRESIDENT SHEIKH HAMAD BIN THAMER AL THANI
- COACH AMAR OSIM (BOS)
DRISS FOTOUHI (INA)
Fotouhi joined Kharaitiyat from the UAE’s Ajman Club on a one-year deal and will be their Asian overseas player. Kharaitiyat Deputy Football Head Nasser Al Saadi said the midfielder would be a key player in the team. “He’ll be one of the most important players of not only our club but also the Qatar Stars League. He has great technical skills. We believe signing him is a big step forward in strengthening our team,” said Al Saadi. Fotouhi, 27, was born in Casablanca and began playing at Wydad. He had represented Morocco at the 2012 London Olympics.
JEREMY BOKILA (CON)
Congolese Bokila will spearhead Al Kharaitiyat’s attack this season. The 1.88M tall player joined from Turkish side Eskisehirspor, where he played on loan from China’s Guangzhou R&F. He has also played in the Dutch, Russian and Romanian leagues and has been representing DR Congo since 2012. Bokila’s prime task will be to surpass departed Burkinabe Yahia Kebe, who had scored 17 goals for Kharaitiyat last season.
ABDELMOULA BERRABEH (MAR)
DOMINGOS NASCIMENTO (BRA)
Onus is on coach Osim to make Thunders click
AL KHARAITIYAT know they have to be a bit more aggressive this time and cannot wait for things to happen.
Last season, the Thunders were tied with Qatar Sports Club on points and avoided relegation only by virtue of their better goal difference. With four teams set to go down this season, the club knows things could be really harder.
Kharaitiyat have retained Bosnian coach Amar Osim and bought nine new players. Among the four foreign recruits, only Brazilian defender Domingos Nascimento was retained.
Hassan Abdelfattah, Yahia Kebe and Issiar Dia gave way to Moroccan midfielder Abdelmoula Berrabeh, Congolese striker Jeremy Bokila and Driss Fotouhi, an Indonesian midfielder of Moroccan origin.
Qatari players Mousa Al Allaq and Saoud Nasser joined them from relegated clubs Qatar Sports Club and Mesaimeer respectively while Abdulrahman Musabah moved in from Al Ahli. Lekhwiya trio of Lassina Diaby, Khaled Radwan and Adel Bader are their other newcomers. Osim’s task is to combine the players into a fighting unit.
MUAITHER | Eagles | FOUNDED IN 1996
- PRESIDENT SALEH BIN ALI AL AJI
- COACH PHILIPPE BIROL (FRA)
MAHMOUD ZA’TARA (JOR)
Muaither will expect Za’tara to begin from where he left off last season, when he emerged as their top scorer in the Second Division with 20 goals. But Qatar Stars League (QSL) is played at a different level and he must raise his game accordingly. The Jordanian striker is confident of making an impact in his debut season in the QSL. “This is my first in the league and I hope I show my ability with Muaither as it’ll be a big step-up from the Qatargas League,” said Za’tara. “It’s a tough ask, but my aim is to be the top scorer in the league. Many people think that Asian professionals don’t have the ability to score many goals in the QSL. I’ll change that perception this season.”
MATIAS MIER (URU)
The 26-year-old Uruguayan winger joined Muaither last June from native club Athletico Renistas. Mier will be eager to impress in his very first venture out of South America. He has spent most his career in his country, including at Montevideo giants Penarol, and in Chile. It is important that he quickly forms a partnership up front with Jordanian striker Mahmoud Za’tara.
BRUNO AGUIAR (BRA)
WILLIAM SCHUSTER (BRA)
When survival is the name of game for Eagles
ALL Muaither are hoping for is survival. But they know it is easier said than done.
Most Second Division teams have been disappointing during their top-flight stay, failing to make the most of their opportunities. Muaither want to buck that trend. They have done well during their pre-season camp in Bosnia, but need to fight tooth and nail right from the start to nurture any hope of staying in the top flight.
Muaither have retained French coach Philippe Birol, who helped them win the Qatargas League last season.
Defender Bruno Aguiar, fellow Brazilian midfielder William Schuster and Uruguayan winger Matias Mier are their new foreign recruits while Jordanian striker Mahmoud Za’tara, who top-scored for the team last season, has stayed.
Unlike Mesaimeer, who were one of the promoted sides last term , Muaither have managed to sign some experienced Qatari players. Former national team players Adel Lamy and Mohammed Yasser, who were with Al Arabi and Al Kharaitiyat respectively, are the most popular names. The duo should be able to guide the young players in the new season.
AL SHAHANIYA | Oryxes | FOUNDED IN 1998
- PRESIDENT MENAHI AL SHAMMARI
- COACH FATHI AL JABAL (TUN)
MEHRDAD POOLADI (IRI)
Pooladi boasts a decade-long career, mostly with leading clubs in Iran including Esteghlal and Persepolis. Besides the former Iran international’s experience, his versatility also will be important for Shahaniya as they start almost every match as underdogs. Pooladi used to play as a left-back for his national team, but he can also operate in the midfield, on the wings and up front. The 29-year-old had joined Shahaniya in 2014, but stayed with the club even after they got relegated. Shahaniya would hope his imposing presence could stand them in good stead.
ALVARO PEREZ (ESP)
The Spanish defender joined Shahaniya from Greek club Ergotelis in the 2014-15 season. The former Real Madrid player was a member of the La Liga winning squad in 2006-07. Perez, who started his senior career with the Real’s C team, also had spells at French club AC Arles-Avignon and Turkish side Konyaspor. The 34-year-old’s experience at the top level will mean a lot for Shahaniya whose defence will be under constant pressure.
KALED GOURMI (ALG)
MOHAMED TIAIBA (ALG)
Good beginning crucial for Fathi’s men to stay afloat
ON THEIR debut in the Qatar Stars League in the 2014-15 season, Al Shahaniya ended up with five wins and as many draws, losing the relegation battle to Al Wakrah by three points. And when they get ready for their second stint in the top flight, Shahaniya have the experience to boot. They know that a good beginning is vital.
The club management lost no time in finalising the coach and foreign players. Though former Espanyol coach Miguel Lotina, who managed them in the Second Division, was expected to continue, he was replaced in the summer with Tunisian Fathi Al Jabal.
On the player front, Iranian midfielder Mehrdad Pooladi and Spanish defender Alvaro Perez were retained while the Algerian pair of Khaled Gourmi and Mohamed Tiaiba have been roped in to lead the attack.
Among Qataris, young and talented goalkeeper Khalifa Al Ammari has returned to the club after completing his loan spell with Al Rayyan and his experience with the champions should have boosted his confidence.
Shahaniya will take on champions Rayyan in their first match on Saturday.