After a long preseason, the QNB Stars League returns to action on Friday evening with all twelve sides in the league looking to make a positive start to the season ahead.
The first match of the season will see Al Gharafa, who are now under the leadership of former Al Khor coach Jean Fernandez take on Al Ahli who will be managed by veteran Spanish coach Joaquín Caparrós who will be managing a side from outside of Europe for the first time in his extensive career. Last season, Al Ahli suprised Al Gharafa with a 4-2 win on opening day, and Caparrós will certainly be targeting for the same for his new charges.
Umm Salal take on Al Kharaitiyat in the second game of the season, and both sides will be looking to continue their good form in which they ended the last campaign. Both clubs have also elected to stick with their coaches for the new campaign in Mahmoud Jaber for the Orange Fortress and Ahmad Al-Ajalni for the Thunders. Both sides will be hoping that their playmakers can start the season strongly, with Umm Salal turning to Syrian international Mahmoud Al-Mawas and Kharaitiyat hoping that Moroccan playmaker Anouar Diba can pull the strings for their sides.
Friday’s QSL action is concluded when the newly formed Al Duhail entertaining promoted Qatar SC at Duhail stadium. Both Lekhwiya and El Jaish merged in the summer to form Duahil, and have a ready made squad to challenge for the QNB Stars League crown. Head coach Djamel Belmadi will be hoping that defender Lucas Mendes will be able to bring defensive stability for the new side. As for Qatar SC they have hired experienced coach Gabriel Calderón who has worked extensively in the region. The Argentina coach will have to use all his knowledge to cause a shock result against Al Duhail.
Saturday will see three games take place. First up will see newly promoted Al Markiya will take on last seasons Qatar Cup winners Al Sadd, in what promises to be a stern test for Yusef Adam and his inexperienced Markiya side. Understandably the side has undergone plenty of changes in the professional ranks, and Adam will be hoping that Burkina Faso international Alain Traoré can hit the ground running for his new team. Whilst for Al Sadd they have added to their squad and are primed for a title push in what will be playmaker Xavi’s last ever season as a professional footballer.
Later on in the evening and Al Arabi take on Al Sailya, in what promises to be a interesting game for the much changed Arabi team. New coach Kais Yâakoubi will be aiming to start strongly, and will be putting plenty of faith in new signing Ibrahim Khalfan who is returning to his childhood club. As for Al Sailiya they have elected to stick with the majority of their squad for this season, however Nadir Belhadj formally of Al Sadd has returned to the QNB Stars League and will be raring to go to make a positive impact with his new side.
The final match of the round will see Al Khor take on title challengers Al Rayyan. The Knights have turned to French coach Laurent Banide to guide the side this term, and after a couple of years battling relegation they will be hoping for a positive start to the campaign against Rayyan. Whilst Al Rayyan have strengthened significantly in the close season. Moroccan striker Abdulrazak Hamdullah is the most eye-catching signing of the summer and will be charged with firing Rayyan to title glory.