Al Duhail are already on a high as they prepare for their debut in the FIFA Club World Cup against Egyptian giants Al Ahly next month, but before that they will have to take care of some serious domestic business in order to be in the best possible frame of mind for the prestigious global club tournament.
The defending Qatar Stars League champions will be taking on domestic rivals Al Ahli today in a round-of-16 match of the Amir Cup, knowing full well that a defeat would not only end their prospects of a fourth title but would also have a demoralising effect on the players.
Their French coach Sabri Lamouchi understands the situation perfectly, saying “We will do everything possible” to beat Al Ahli and qualify for the last-8 phase.
“The players are very motivated for the match. There’s a great desire among them to win the title again but this means winning every match from now. We will do everything possible to win,” Lamouchi told reporters at a press conference yesterday.
“After the match against Al Ahli we will start preparing for the FIFA Club World Cup. We will focus on one match at a time. We have beaten Al Ahli many times in the past but that doesn’t mean we should lose our focus.”
Al Duhail certainly have the firepower to subdue Al Ahli, with stars such as Almoez Ali, Edmilson, Karim Boudiaf and the newly-signed Kenyan international Michael Olungo in their ranks.
But the spotlight will be definitely on the 6’4” Olunga, a prolific striker, who last season won the J-League’s Golden Boot award with a whopping 28 goals for Kashiwa Reysol.
His heroics not only helped Kashiwa grab the title, he also became the first African player to claim the MVP honours in the tournament, considered the best league in Asia.
Olunga, who also attended yesterday’s press conference, was excited to be playing in Qatar’s richest tournament.
“It’s exciting to compete in a new tournament after playing two games in the league,” said Olunga, who added that football in Qatar is not much different to what he has experienced in Japan.
“I say so because the most important thing for any player is to get used to the team’s atmosphere, and I, as I said earlier, am ready for a new competition,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Al Ahli coach Nebojsa Jovovic, was eyeing an upset win over Al Duhail as they target their fifth Amir Cup triumph, the last of which came in 1992.
“We are ready and motivated to do our best against Al Ahli,” said the Montenegrin, a striker during his playing days.
“I am confident about the players’ abilities to produce a strong performance in tomorrow’s match. A knockout format has its own challenges but it can also be a boon for some of the lower-ranked teams.”
Meanwhile, Al Shamal are aiming to pull off an upset win over Qatar Sports Club.
“We know that cup matches are always tricky but we are ready for the challenge,” said Al Shamal coach Hicham Shazwani.
“Qatar Sports Club are a team with great history and have lots of experience but we will fight to extend our run in the tournament.”
Qatar Sports Club have won the tournament twice – in 1974 and 1976 – but since then have struggled to make much of an impact.
“Even though Al Shamal are a second division team, we won’t be taking them lightly,” said Qatar Sports Club coach Younes Ali.
“We can’t be complacent because the cup competitions don’t respect your status. They can spring a surprise. You know what happened to Real Madrid – they were knocked out by third division side Deportivo Alquiano in the Copa Del Rey. Everyone should remember that”
In another match today, Al Wakrah will clash with Al Kharaitiyat.