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Lekhwiya’s title chances took a beating when they lost to Umm Salal in the 21st round. But they found themselves back in the reckoning last week after Umm Salal held Al Sadd. And the Cops scored a thumping 3-0 win over Al Kharaitiyat to move closer to the title. Both Lekhwiya and Sadd have to face Jaish. While Djamel Belmadi’s men have relatively easier games against Al Ahli and Al Shahaniya, Sadd will have to play champions Al Rayyan and Al Sailiya, who look good at the moment.
Umm Salal lived up to their nickname Orange Fortress by holding Al Sadd goalless. Mahmoud Jaber’s men, who had not lost in their previous five matches, were without burly striker Yannick Sagbo, but that did not stop them from holding Xavi Hernandez & Co. Umm Salal’s scalps during the unbeaten run included leaders Lekhwiya which speaks of their good work. A club that have always commanded respect for their defensive strength, Umm Salal conceded only thrice in the last six matches.
Rodrigo Tabata led from the front last season to help Al Rayyan regain the league title after a two-decade gap. The Brazil-born Qatar international, who had bagged the best-player award and emerged as the joint top scorer, however, failed to repeat his red-hot form at the start of this season. But, as the league reaches its business end, Tabata seems to be finding his nick, with his hat-trick against Al Wakrah standing proof of it. It augurs well for the Lions, who are eager to do well in the two cup tournaments and also make it to the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League.
Krisztian Nemeth, who joined in January, 2016, had top-scored with seven goals last season to help them from going down. The Hungarian was expected to lead the Cheetahs’ challenge this time as they aimed for a top-four finish, but he has managed to find the target only five times. Gharafa coach Pedro Caixinha criticised the attitude of Nemeth following their defeat against Sailiya, saying that Ghanaian centre-back Rashid Sumaila was the one who was leading both their defence and offence. The criticism seemed to be a bit harsh as Nemeth, who had played at the Euro 2016 in France, had come close on many a time and was unlucky not to score.
After the first phase, Sailiya had found themselves 11th in the standings with 12 points, staring at relegation. Sami Trabelsi tweaked his squad in January by signing three new foreign players and a handful of Qataris. That seems to have helped them as the Peregrines have added 14 points in the last 10 rounds to take their tally to 26, which should help their top-flight stay. Sailiya shocked Al Gharafa 3-2 last week, but as Sami Trabelsi said, they fared better in their 1-2 loss to leaders Lekhwiya in the week before last. They are up against Muaither, Al Sadd and Al Wakrah, and if their current form is any indication, it will not be a surprise if they win points from all three.