Doha: An injured striker, a new coach and uncertainty about a new signing —Al Rayyan’s preparation for the new season, which starts with a one-off Sheikh Jassim Cup tie against QNB Stars League champions Al Duhail SC, has been less than ideal.
Rayyan just concluded their overseas training camp in Slovenia where they finished off with a 2-0 victory against Czech side SC Znojmo on Wednesday, but new coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena has reasons to be worried about, especially because of the injury to talismanic striker Abderrazak Hamdallah and the uncertainty surrounding their transfer target Leonardo da Silva Sousa.
Leonardo was strongly linked with Rayyan but he has also been connected with Partizan Belgrade where he was for a season in 2016.
Rayyan’s another overseas signing last season, forward Mouhcine Moutouali joined Al Ahli while the Lions retained the services of Uruguayan defender Gonzalo Viera and South Korean midfielder Koh Myong-jin.
Rayyan found out they were no match for Duhail and Sadd in the league last season, finishing third and they did not renew the contract of Michael Laudrup.
The problem with Rayyan is that two of their key players — captain Rodrigo Tabata and striker Sebastian Soria — are not getting any younger. While Tabata is 37, Soria is 34 and even though they put on a battling display last season, the risk of them fizzling out is increasing every year.
Hamdallah was by far their best performer last season until he suffered an ankle injury against Al Ahli in the final round of the QSL.
The 27-year old Moroccan is sure to miss the start of the season but Rayyan would expect he won’t be out of action for too long.
Argentinian Arruabarrena, who replaced Laudrup at the close season, has coached top sides such as Boca Juniors and Nacional and has enough experience in the gulf where he was with UAE side Al Wasl.
One of the most important transfer activity for Rayyan this season has been the signing of Qatar international Khalfan Ibrahim.
The once golden boy of Qatar football joined from Al Arabi and will be hoping to revive his career.
Rayyan start their campaign with a match against Al Ahli on August 5.