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The 2023-2024 season Expo Stars League is back against the backdrop of Qatar’s historic triumph at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 (January 12 to February 10).

The Expo Stars League was suspended after Week 12 on December 20 and 21, 2023. Week 13 was rescheduled in co-ordination with the relevant authorities and at the request of National Teams Department to give the victorious players more time to rest and recover after the hard physical efforts they put in at the Asian Cup, which Al Annabi won for the second time in a row.

The action will resume with Week 14 matches on February 24 and 25, 2024. The fixtures are Qatar SC vs Umm Salal, Al Gharafa vs Al Ahli and Al Markhiya vs Muaither on Saturday, Al Wakrah vs Al Sadd, Al Duhail vs Al Arabi and Al Rayyan vs Al Shamal on Sunday.

Al Sadd are leading the standings with 31 points (10 wins, one draw and a defeat). The Wolves have the strongest attack line with 38 goals for and six against. They have the best defence too.

Al Sadd’s match against Al Wakrah at the Al Janoub Stadium will be strong, especially since Al Wakrah are performing well this season. The Blue Wave are second in the standings with 27 points, only four points behind Al Sadd. They have eight wins, three draws and one defeat against their name.

Al Wakrah prepared for the tournament’s resumption by playing several friendly matches, the last of which was their 1-2 loss to Al Ahli. They signed a number of players in the winter transfer, most notably the duo of Khaled Ali from Al Rayyan and Abdulaziz Metwaly from Al Markhiya. Dutch midfielder Adam Maher was also recruited from Saudi Arabian side Damac.

Al Sadd mainly depend on their Al Annabi stars and Asian champions Meshaal Barshim, Mohammed Waad, Tareq Salman, Boualem Khoukhi, Pedro Miguel, Akram Afif and Hassan Al Haydous among others.

Al Sadd, under national coach Wesam Rizik, beat Muaither in their last friendly match by a 3-2 margin.

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Al Duhail and Al Arabi will face off in another strong encounter at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

Al Arabi and Al Duhail are both on 17 points, but the former are placed fifth on better goal difference. The Dream team have been doing well this season also and had reached the final of Ooredoo Cup, where they lost to Umm Salal on penalties.

Al Arabi have recorded four victories, five draws and three defeats. They boast of the prominent midfield duo of Ahmed Fathi and Jassim Jaber, who put up outstanding performances with Qatar at the Asian Cup, in addition to Italian star Marco Verratti, and the attacking duo of Yousef Msakni and Omar Al Somah.

Al Duhail, under coach Christophe Galtier, are seeking a strong return to the league as the reigning champions are languishing at sixth place.

The Red Knights had mixed fortunes this season, having lost five matches. They have registered five wins and two draws. Galtier was keen to make a turnaround in their fortunes and they featured in the Equality Cup alongside Chinese team Shanghai Shenhua, Russian side Zenit and Brazil’s Santos.

Al Duhail strengthened their ranks in the winter transfer window with Brazilian defender Lucas Verissimo from Portuguese club Benfica. They are also to regain the services of Karim Boudiaf, Luiz Martin Jr, Ibrahima Diallo and Michael Olunga from injury layoffs.

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Qatar SC, ranked eighth, face Umm Salal (seventh) at the Suhaim bin Hamad Stadium in a match whose outcome is difficult to predict, given the strong performances put up by both teams this season and their closeness in the table. Umm Salal (15) are ahead of Qatar SC by only three points.

Umm Salal, under French coach Patrice Carteron, have registered four wins, three draws and five defeats. After winning the Ooredoo Cup on January 6, 2024, The Orange Fortress played in the Al Wahda friendly tournament, where they finished third. They also played friendlies against Al Gharafa and Al Rayyan.

Umm Salal, meanwhile, bolstered the side by signing Portuguese striker Lucas Joao from Chinese club Shanghai Port until the end of season, replacing Algerian Andy Delort.

Qatar SC prepared themselves by having a preparatory camp and playing a number of friendlies, the last of which saw them beat Al Rayyan 3-2.

The Kings, who have recorded three wins, as many losses and six defeats, strengthened their ranks by including Diab Haroun from Al Duhail and Yohan Boli from Al Gharafa, while Iraqi Bashar Resan switched to Al Markhiya.

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Al Gharafa, who strengthened their line-up by re-registering Serbian defender Lyanco as replacement for Boli, will be eager to continue their good performance and results when they take on Al Ahli at the Thani bin Jassim Stadium.

The Cheetahs are placed third with 27 points, the same as Al Wakrah but behind on goal difference. They will target only victory to stay in contention for the title.

However, Al Ahli will look to stay away from the danger zone as they are placed ninth with 12 points, the same as Qatar SC but behind on goal difference.

An exciting game is on the cards when Al Markhiya meet Muaither at the Grand Hamad Stadium of Al Arabi club. Both are bottom-placed teams and are sure to go all out for a win. Al Markhiya (12th) are on four points (one victory, one draw and 10 defeats), while Muaither are 11th with six points (one victory, three draws and eight defeats).

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Both sides prepared during the break by playing friendly matches and signing new players.

Al Rayyan face Al Shamal in Week 14’s last match at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium. The first-leg game between them was full of excitement and Al Rayyan won by a 4-3 margin.

Al Rayyan are in fourth place with 22 points and their Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim hopes that the team will continue its strong performance and stay as title contenders.

Al Rayyan strengthened their ranks during the winter transfers by signing Murad Naji, Ali Qaderi and Hazem Shehata.

Al Shamal, in 10th place with 11 points, also want to stay away from the danger zone. They recruited Moroccan Younes Belhanda to add power to their attack.

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Published on: 20/02/2024

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