With just three rounds to go in the season, Doha football giants Al Sadd will have to exhibit a steely resolve in all fixtures to nail the Qatar Stars League (QSL) title once again.
For Al Sadd to lift the QSL Shield, they must overcome Al Rayyan – the other powerhouse of football in Qatar – in next month’s eagerly-anticipated battle dubbed as the ‘Qatar Clasico’.
In an absorbing campaign so far, second-placed Al Sadd and points leaders Lekhwiya have spent the season neck and neck in race to win the Shield with the latter side enjoying a two-point edge.
Lekhwiya have 56 points from 23 games so far with Al Sadd falling two points short in as many games after a draw against Umm Salal in the last round.
With just three matches left in the season, Al Sadd – coached by Jesualdo Ferreira – will look to win all their remaining games including the one against mighty third-placed Al Rayyan to keep their title-hopes alive.
Knowing the huge challenge ahead of them, Ferreira’s side has already kicked off their preparations for the crucial stage of the QSL with the Xavi Hernandez-led side hitting the training pitch following 11-day rest.
The former QSL champions, however, had a number of notable absentees in training sessions who are all currently representing Qatar including Hassan Haydoos, Ibrahim Majid and goalkeeper Saad Al Dosari.
Apart from the group, Iranian international defender Morteza Pouraliganji has joined up with his country ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.
One player already confirmed to be out for the Qatar Clasico is defender Mohammed Kasola who is set for a one game suspension, after picking up his fourth yellow card of the season in the Wolves last league game.
Al Sadd will have to display their best show against Al Rayyan who have shown excellent form in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the Michael Laudrup’s side registered a 3-1 victory over Persepolis at Al Sadd Stadium, moving to the top of Group D in the 2017 AFC Champions League.
Al Rayyan who returned to the QSL in 2015-16 after a one-year hiatus with a title triumph are currently on third position in the standing and are aiming to retain their position till the end of the season.
Meanwhile, El Jaish will welcome back key defender to the squad as the soldiers start their preparations for their crunch round 24 matches against leaders Lekhwiya.
The club confirmed that defender Yusef Muftah is back in first team contention after a one game domestic ban for picking up four yellow cards this season. Muftah sat out of his side’s 2-1 victory over Muaither, and now is free to be selected for the game against their local rivals.
El Jaish also revealed that midfielder Khalid Abdulraouf is continuing his rehabilitation from a knee injury he suffered at the beginning of the campaign. Club officials confirmed that Abdulraouf will now slowly return to first team training, and start to get back to full fitness.
With the QSL making way for international football, El Jaish has also organized a friendly match to maintain fitness during the three week break in action. Sabri Lamouchi’s side is set to take on Qatar Gas League side Al Shamal on March 21.
The friendly will be seen as vital preparation for their match against Lekhwiya, which is set to take place over the first weekend in April.