Al Sadd, Al Rayyan in Qatar Clasico showdown

Al Sadd and Al Rayyan players vie for the ball possession during a QNB Stars League match in this file photo.

Doha: The Qatari giants in the field of football, Al Rayyan and Al Sadd will be seeking honours in the QNB Stars League (QSL) standings when the two sides meet in the Qatar Clasico today.

At the Al Sadd Stadium today, stakes will be high for both teams which possess equally strong line-ups, reputation, history, performance, popularity and fan support.
Al Sadd are second in the table with 37 points, two behind Al Duhail and as many more than third-placed Al Rayyan.
The Wolves have the likes of Spanish great Xavi Hernandez, Jugurtha Hamroun, Morteza Mohammad and Hassan Al Haidous to match The Lions’ Abderrazaq Hamdallah, Rodrigo Tabata, Sebastian Soria and Mohsen Moutaouli.

Moroccan striker Hamdallah is Al Rayyan’s top scorer with 12 goals and is the third highest in the list, after Al Duhail’s Youssef El Arabi (20) and Youssef Msakni (14).
Al Rayyan’s playmaker Rodrigo Tabata has scored 11 goals and striker Sebastian Soria nine.
Al Sadd’s top scorers are Qatar international Hassan Al Haydous and Algerian attacking midfielder Jugurtha Hamroun (eight goals each). The Algerian attacking midfielder, who had netted a brace in their victories in Weeks 13 and 14 and missed their last match due to suspension, will be back in action.
Al Rayyan are coming off their 3-1 win over Al Markhiya, while Al Sadd got the better of Qatar SC by the same score.
Al Rayyan’s first-choice goalkeeper Omar Barry is experienced enough, but will find it hard to contain the Al Sadd offence, where Algerian ace Baghdad Bounedjah is a doubtful starter even though he trained with the team on Sunday.

Al Sadd custodian Saad Al Dossari has also proved his mettle, but if Hamdallah and company have their way, he will also be at the receiving end.
In defence, The Lions are served by Gonzalo Vieira, Mousa Haroun, Mohammed Alaelddin and Mohammed Juma, whereas Morteza Mohammad, Pedro Miguel, Abdelkarim Hassan and Hamed Ismail man The Wolves’ defence.  

Xavi leads the charge in Al Sadd’s midfield, also consisting of Al Haydous and Hamroun, while Al Rayyan have in-form Mohsine Moutaouli and Daniel Goumou to assist Tabata.
The Wolves will miss Boualem Khoukhi through an injury, but have at their disposal the services of Akram Afif, signed on loan from Villarreal, Spain.
Al Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira (Portugal) and his Al Rayyan counterpart Michael Laudrup (Denmark) are both master tacticians and have produced excellent results. And that makes the ‘Qatar Classico’ a battle for technical supremacy as well.

Al Rayyan won the first-phase of Qatar Clasico 2-1, so Al Sadd will look to settle the score.
Speaking during a pre-match press conference, Al Sadd coach Ferreira said: “The game is crucial and we know the importance of winning it though we still have seven games remaining. The players are aware of it. We had not been playing with a full squad for a long time. However, we won many matches.
“I have great confidence in my players and we have a policy to groom youngsters. Al Duhail and Al Sadd must keep winning as Al Rayyan are close behind. I am also happy that Akram Afif has joined us.

“Our strength is team work and not individual players. Ours is a squad consisting of many star players. The return from injury of Baghdad Bounedjah means another player would be on the bench,” said Ferreira.
His counterpart, Laudrup said: “The players are excited about the Qatar Clasico. There can’t be a better motivation for them than the prospects of playing in this match. So far, we have 11 wins and we are still four points behind leaders Al Duhail.
“So it’s important to win and gain more and more points as we will be playing quite often now with the AFC Champions League coming up. We must stay focused. We are happy with our performance so far.

“Al Rayyan do not have players in the Qatar national team due to age factor. Our players like Ahmed Abdul Maqsoud and Mohammed Alaaeldin have the potential to make it to the squad,” said Laudrup.
Today’s other match will also see two top sides taking on each other in a crunch tie. QSL Table leaders Al Duhail are sure to make life tough for Al Gharafa when they face off on the latter’s home turf. The Red Knights, leading the table with 39 points, will be looking to register their 13th victory and remain as the only unbeaten side so far in this season’s league competition.


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