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Focused Al Rayyan visit Al Gharafa with an eye on spot

Focused Al Rayyan visit Al Gharafa with an eye on spot

Ayeni Olusegun
Doha
A dissappointing loss to Al Sadd in the Qatar Cup semi-final will not dent Al Rayyan’s ambitions of claiming the top spot in the QNB Stars League, according to coach Diego Aguirre.
Al Rayyan visit Al Gharafa on Thursday knowing a win will see them go atop the league standings – pending the outcome of Al Duhail’s match on Friday at Al Arabi.
The Lions are one of two unbeaten teams in the league so far but a 4-1 loss at the hands of bitter rivals Al Sadd in the Qatar Cup exposed the team’s weakness.
Aguirre, however, says his side have moved on from the defeat. “We go into this match with an opportunity to go top of the standings and thus stay strongly in contention for the title.
“I didn’t see that there was any impact on my team after the loss against Al Sadd in the Qatar Cup semi-final. We have fully forgotten that game, it is now a thing of the past. Our focus is now on Al Gharafa and we have to remain like that if we are to get a positive result,” the Uruguayan said on Wednesday.
“Everybody knows Al Gharafa are one of the best teams here and it will be important for us to win because we are playing for the top of the league. This game for us will decide maybe our future,” he added.
Aguirre also dispelled the notion that Al Rayyan are too reliant on Yacine Brahimi.
The Algerian has scored 10 of the club’s 28 goals this season. The closest to him is midfileder Abdulaziz Hatem on six, but the club recently signed Ivorian Yohan Boli as stalwarts Rodrigo Tabata and Sebastian Soria are on the back end of their careers.
“I do not think we depend only on Brahimi. Al Rayyan are a collective unit that does not depend on one player. But Brahimi is a good player. He is the best player in the first division and we play as a team and as a group.”
Fourth-placed Al Gharafa are already 10 points off the league leaders. Despite a great start to the season, Slavisa Jokanovic’s team have managed just two wins in their last five matches. The team’s struggles was further made glaring after a shock 2-1 loss to minnows Al Shahania.
The Cheetahs however, will hope new signing Jonathan Kodjia will hit the floor running with much-needed goals.
“Our expectation is big, I know him from the English Championship and I wanted to sign him while I was with Fulham. He presents us with different options to play. The last six months we have been playing with one striker, now we have two so it presents us a lot of options,” Jokanovic said.
On Al Rayyan’s challenge, the Serbian said, “Al Rayyan, considering their position, are considered as one of the strongest teams. They are showing better levels than last season and are competing for the title. They have a group of outstanding players, so the game is going to be difficult.
“It is a good thing that we trained last week with full squad. We must improve our level and results,” he added.
In the other match on Thursday, Al Sailiya will look to bounce back to winning ways against the out-of-form Al Ahli.
A win for Al Sailiya could be a major boost ahead of their AFC Champions League debut next Tuesday.

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