Al Ahli vs Al Gharafa — Friday, 12th January, 2018 @ 16:20, Al Ahli Stadium
For sure, no other team will start the QNB Stars League’s second-phase campaign than Al Gharafa. They can take the field with renewed vigour and boosted confidence for many reasons.
It is against this backdrop that seventh-placed Al Gharafa (11 points) travel to sixth-placed Al Ahli (14 points) for their Week 12 game on Friday. The kick-off is at 16:20.
The Cheetahs saw many positive changes during the QNB Stars League’s month-long break, which witnessed the semifinals and final of QSL Cup being played and also the Gulf Cup in Kuwait.
First, Al Gharafa triumphed in the sixth edition of QSL Cup, defeating Al Rayyan in the final. Thus, they ended their long title drought, of five seasons. They had qualified for the semifinals with an unbeaten record.
Turk Bulent Uygun then replaced Jean Fernandez as coach after the Frenchman parted ways with the club by mutual consent. Uygun had a long stint with Qatar’s Umm Salal. His familiarity with Qatar’s football scene should help him stand in good stead as Al Gharafa embark on the second half of the season with great hopes and high ambitions.
Al Gharafa could register only two wins in the first phase and Bulent straightaway got down to business by putting the players through their paces over two sessions daily.
The friendly they played against Qatar SC gave Bulent an opportunity to try out various combinations before giving a final shape to his strategy.
To top it all, Al Gharafa pulled off a coup of sorts by roping in Dutch star Wesley Sneijder for one-and-a-half seasons. The 33-year-old attacking midfielder has an impressive CV in his illustrious club as well as country career.
In fact, Al Gharafa and Al Ahli, both mid-table teams, are the only sides playing their first match post-break under new coaches.
Al Ahli handed the reins to youth team coach George Jorge immediately after Spaniard Joaquin Caparros quit the job because of personal reasons, dealing a blow to The Brigadiers at a time when they were on a high after doing well towards the end of first phase.
Al Ahli had registered shock wins over strong contenders Al Rayyan and Al Sailiya in the last two rounds. They have recorded double the number of wins than Al Gharafa, but have a goal difference of -4 as against the rivals’ -1.
Although they lost to German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, who were in Doha for their annual winter training camp at Aspire, by a big margin, the friendly provided Jorge with a chance to assess his players in a match situation for the first time at the senior level.
The big question is will the result go Al Gharafa’s way this time, after their 1-1 draw in the first phase?