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Top three in action as race for Falcon Shield heats up

Top three in action as race for Falcon Shield heats up

Ayeni Olusegun
Doha
Reigning champions Al Sadd know anything short of a win against Al Arabi on Thursday will further dent any chance of them retaining the QNB Stars League title.
The Wolves are five points behind leaders Al Duhail who themselves, though struggling, have been able to squeeze out results when it matters.
On a blockbuster Thursday, the top three teams in the league will all be in action, beginning with Al Duhail hosting bottom side Al Shahania, second place Al Rayyan take on Al Ahli, before the ‘Doha Derby’ between Al Sadd and Al Arabi.
Al Sadd were stunned last weekend after enduring a disappointing 2-2 draw against relegation fighters Umm Salal. The Wolves had to fightback to grab a point after going down two goals in the first half.
“We weren’t effective in out last match. We didn’t lose because of tactics, we just didn’t convert our chances and we created a lot. We were much better than them (Umm Salal) and still we lost two points against them. We concede goals in set pieces and we have to focus and fix it. When we connect as a team, it shows in our performances,” Al Sadd coach Xavi Hernandez said on Wednesday.
With seven games left in the league, the record domestic champions know they can’t afford to be casual in the remaining games especially with long-term injuries to Hassan al Haydos, Salem al Hajri and Ali Asad.
“The game is a final for us. There are seven matches left in the league and we can’t afford to drop any more points. We have to win and then wait to see what happens with Al Duhail.
“It’s a derby against Al Arabi and they have a physical side but for us, we are ready. Arabi have been solid at the back and they defend better now. We have some injuries but there’s no excuse. We have to compete. We are Al Sadd and we don’t want to make excuses.
“This is the way it is in football. Everybody has pressure but more for us because we are five points behind the leaders.
“We hope both Al Rayyan and Al Duhail don’t win, but we also have to do our job in games starting with Al Arabi,” he said.
Adding to Xavi’s words Abdelkarim Hassan said, “We have some absent players and we know how important they are to the team. The coach has managed to get some good subs in for us and hopefully we have a good game against Al Arabi.”
Al Arabi coach on the other hand, said his side have to show a reaction to the 6-1 drubbing they received from Al Sadd earlier.
“Our first-leg match with Al Sadd is not a good memory for us, so we have to learn from mistakes in order not to repeat them and come up with a positive result. I think that my team is ready and I am looking forward to a strong reaction from them,” Heimir Hallgrimsson said.
The Icelandic coach also hinted that Sadd have some vulnerabilities, which was highlighted by Umm Salal.
“We saw the match between Al Sadd and Umm Salal. We noticed the performance of Umm Salal, who challenged Al Sadd. Some say Al Sadd did not play well in the first half, while others say Umm Salal were good. Umm Salal’s goals came from set-pieces, which is an area we can exploit,” he added.
Meanwhile Al Duhail will be without defender Mehdi Benatia through injury while Mario Madzukic is a doubt when they take on Al Shahania.
The Red Knights have been inconsistent but managed a slim win over Al Wakrah last weekend. They have also scored the least number of goals among the top three sides with just 28 – four less than Al Rayyan and 16 goals behind Al Sadd. Al Duhail however boast the meanest defence in the division having conceded 12 goals.
“We are in the last stages of league competition. There is no easy match, because all teams want to win in order to achieve their targets, including those who play to avoid the relegation,” Al Duhail coach Walid Regragui said.

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