(MENAFN - Gulf Times) QNB Stars League big guns Al Sadd and Al Duhail will be in action today as both the teams look to extend their winning run. Leaders Sadd are away to Al Sailiya at the Al Ahli Stadium, while reigning champions Al Duhail take on Umm Salal.
Al Sadd lead the standings with 47 points, four more than second-placed Al Duhail. The Wolves have the most number of victories (15). They drew two matches and lost one. Their goal difference is +66 (also the most by any team), having scored 83 goals and conceded 17. Al Sadd, who registered an 8-1 win over Qatar SC in the last round, would not want a slip-up before their big date with Al Duhail in Week 20, so Al Sailiya will be more wary of them.
Al Sadd are coming to the match on a high after their win over Iran's Persepolis in the AFC Champions League and coach Jesualdo Ferreira expected to carry the momentum to today's match.
'We are ready for this important match against Al Sailiya, a top-four team. Besides putting up great efforts, the secret of our success will be the focus for 90 minutes. Al Sailiya are a tough side. Our goal is to win and the players have a certain amount of responsibility. They have the ability to overcome the odds. We play every game to win and fight till the last minute, he said.
Ferreira revealed captain Xavi Hernandez will be available for the match. 'Our captain Xavi will be available to play in this game, having confirmed his physical and technical readiness. Al Sailiya did not play for two weeks and we played two important games. After the victory against Persepolis, we are very excited to win. We compete in tournaments like the AFC Champions League with enthusiasm. We have the players to deliver the goods, he added.
Sailiya are third with 31 points (10 victories, one draw and seven defeats). Al Rayyan and Al Ahli are breathing down their neck, so The Peregrines, coming from a 2-3 defeat to Al Arabi in Week 18, cannot afford to drop points if they are to stay in the top four.
Sailiya assistant coach Ameen Farikha was seeking a positive result from today's tough match. 'This is a very important game for both teams, especially since this is a contest between sides that are in the top four. Al Sadd are on top of the table and we are third. We seek a positive result that will enable us to stay in the top four, Farikha said.
'Most of our games against Al Sadd in the past seasons have been very enthusiastic and we cannot predict the outcome this time as well. Therefore, we expect this game to be very exciting. Al Sadd, who have opened their account in the AFC Champions League by winning their second-round match, are a team with outstanding players. Naturally, we must be ready against them, he added.
Al Sadd boast of the likes of tournament top scorer Baghdad Bounedjah, Akram Afif and Hassan al-Haydous, whereas Al Sailiya mainly have the services of Rashid Tiberkanine, Abdulkadir Ilyas and Nadir Belhadj. Al Sadd and Al Sailiya had played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg of this season's QNB Stars League.
Meanwhile, Umm Salal have their task cut out when they host reigning champions Al Duhail at the Al Gharafa Stadium. Duhail are keeping pace with Al Sadd in second spot on 43 points, four adrift of the leaders. The Red Knights are well aware that each point at this stage counts in their bid to retain the coveted league shield.
On the other hand, Umm Salal too badly need points to improve their position in the table. The Orange Fortress' performance have been on the decline of late. They are coming off back-to-back defeats against Al Kharaitiyat and Al Khor, both by a 0-1 margin. All that hots up the contest, which will round up the week's action.
Al Duhail, coached by Portuguese Rui Faria, have 13 wins to their credit. Al Duhail, who beat Al Ahli 6-0 in Week 18, hold the distinction of conceding the least number of goals among all 12 teams. That will make the job of Umm Salal attack, led by Yannick Sagbo and Mahmoud Al Mawas, tougher.
Umm Salal, under the tutelage of Spaniard Raul Caneda, are placed seventh with 20 points (five wins, as many draws and eight defeats). Their goal difference is -11 (19 goals for and 30 against). The Umm Salal defence is sure to have a tough time, with the likes of Yousef El Arabi, Paolo Edmilson and Shoya Nakajima leading the Al Duhail charge.
Al Duhail had beaten Umm Salal 2-0 in the first leg of this season's QNB Stars League. Meanwhile, Al Duhail lost to Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal 1-3 in their 2019 AFC Champions League Group C second-round fixture in Riyadh on 12th March. Al Duhail had started their continental campaign on a strong note, beating Iran's Esteghlal 3-0.