By Sports Reporter/Doha
The uncertainty over the availability of key players has cast a shadow over Al Arabi’s Amir Cup semi-final against Al Markhiya today. As many as five players were absent from Arabi’s draw with Al Wakrah in the QNB Stars League last week, with coach Heimir Hallgrimsson admitting yesterday, “We’re in a race against time.”
While key forward Mohamed El Neel is ruled out for a month, Hallgrimsson is hoping Sebastian Soria, Hamdi Harbaoui, Mehdi Torabi and Marc Martinez will be ready to face the second division side Al Markhiya at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium today. Al Arabi have had a difficult couple of months since the resumption of football following the coronavirus disruption. While they managed to finish seventh last season in the league, they are a lowly ninth in the current campaign, having only won once in five matches so far.
They were also beaten comprehensively by Al Sadd in the Ooredoo Cup final, extending Arabi’s wait for a title, which last came in 2011 when they won the Sheikh Jassim Cup.
While heavyweights Al Sadd or Al Duhail will wait for them in the final, Al Arabi first need to get past Markhiya, who have punched above their weight in the Amir Cup. While the readiness of his key players concerned Hallgrimsson, he also admitted to knowing nothing of Markhiya. “We deal with this match like any other match and the preparations are not different, but the only difference is that we do not know much about Al Markhiya, which is difficult. The second division has just started and it’s very difficult to get videos of them,” the Icelandic coach said.
“I am satisfied with the level of the players and what they did, especially in the last match in the league. We played against Al Wakrah without five players but I hope they’ll be fit to play against Markhiya,” he added.
Hallgrimsson conceded Arabi will go into the match as favourites but was wary of Markhiya, who had beaten fancied Al Gharafa in the last 16 and Al Rayyan in the quarter-final.
“We are trying to put an end to the Al Markhiya adventure. But their results so far are not a stroke of luck. They have performed well,” he said.
Markhiya, who missed promotion to the QNB Stars League after losing to Al Khor in the play-off, have a new coach. With Yunus Ali taking over at Qatar Sports Club, former Al Khor coach Omar Najhi is in charge of Markhiya now. Hallgrimsson said Najhi’s side are always difficult to score against as they are well drilled defensively. “We know coach Najhi and his organised defensive style. Markhiya team also has good attacking players and can punish us if we underestimate them, which will not happen,” he said. “We will be under pressure against Markhiya, who are a good team, but we will throw all our strength to win against them.”
Najhi, meanwhile said it was an historic opportunity for Markhiya’ to reach the Amir Cup final and praised his predecessor Yunus Ali for his work at the club. “We have great ambition with Markhiya having an historic opportunity after some great work done by former coach Yunus Ali and leading the team to the semi-finals. We have great confidence and strive to complete the journey,” he said.
The Markhiya coach said Al Arabi will be the fancied today, but was confident his team’s chances.
“I have a good group of players, who have experience and ambition and they have a professional mentality, which has made it easy for me to work with them. Playing in the Amir Cup semi-final is a golden opportunity for us and we hope to take advantage of it.”
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