Doha: Al Duahil SC were in a class of their own last season, winning the QNB Stars League, Emir Cup, and Qatar Cup titles and storming into the quarterfinal of the AFC Champions League with an all-win record, but with the new season only a few days away, their preparation has been less than ideal.
Disturbing a winning unit more often than not turns out to be a bad plan but that’s exactly what Duhail had to deal with as Djamel Belmadi quit and was replaced by Tunisia national team coach Nabil Maaloul.
There is no disputing Maaloul’s credentials and his experience, but one of the key reasons for Duhail’s dominance last season was their continuity and the Tunisian will be under pressure to keep up the good work by Belmadi.
The first headache for Maaloul will be the long-term absence of captain Youssef Msakni who is recovering from a cruciate ligament injury which kept him out of Tunisia’s World Cup campaign as well.
Msakni was by far the best player for Duhail last season, setting up chances for his team-mates and scoring stunning goals himself on a regular basis and Maaloul’s side is sure to struggle in finding a replacement for their inspirational skipper.
Young Standard Liege striker Edmilson Junior is reportedly on his way to join Duhail but despite his impending arrival Maaloul has plenty of work to do.
Young Qatar international midfielders Ahmed Moen and Assim Madibo joined back from their loan spells at Spanish side Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa and Al Gharafa respectively but neither of them could be considered as an upgrade to the talent they already possess in the likes of Karim Boudiaf, Luiz Martin and Bassam Hisham.
Duhail are solid at back with Mohammed Musa, Lucas Mendes and Dame Traore in central defence, Murad Naji proving to be an unsung hero as a right back and Sultan Al Brake shining on the left side.
But it was their attack line that made Duhail such a fearsome force last season and the likes Nam Tae Hee, Ismael Mohammed, Youssef El Arabi would be raring to go this season as well.
Edmilson Junior is fast, talented, and a proven goal-scorer and could be more than a handful for the rival defences.
But the main problem for Duhail will be how the team reacts to Maaloul’s ways and how they are going to improve upon last season which was, by all means, a perfect one.
The team currently in Austria, preparing for the new season under the watchful eyes of Maaloul.
They held Turkish side Trabzonspor to a 1-1 draw in their third practice match after victories against Austrian team Bischofshofen and Russia’s FC Akhmat Grozny.
But what matters is how they fare in the AFC Champions League, QSL and other domestic competitions starting from the Sheikh Jassim Cup against Al Rayyan on August 1.