Triple defending champions Al Arabi Club look are armed with the wherewithal necessary to extend their hold over the Emir Cup Volleyball Championship for another year.
At the Qatar Women’s Sports Committee Indoor Hall at the Aspire Zone on Friday ay 6.30 pm, the 21-time champions Al Arabi Club will clash with arch-rivals Al Rayyan Club in the 16th final of the championship between the two major teams of Qatar.
Al Arabi Club have won three out of four titles in the current season so far, including two – the Super Cup and the Qatar Cup – at the expense of the Al Rayyan, who have been found wanting in defence especially when they needed it the most.
The latest example of it was the Super Cup final recently. Al Arabi Club packed too many punches to send Al Rayyan Club in disarray and bagged the title 3-1. Their professionals wing spiker Gyrogy Grozer and American outside hitter Taylor Sander gelled with middle teammates well to pull off the title.
They displayed the same form and fluency during the Emir Cup semi-final playoffs and disposed of QVA League champions Police 2-0. The dominant manner in which Al Arabi Club advanced to the final was quite impressive.
And when take to the court on the morrow for their 29th final, Al Arabi Club are expected to be the same competitive and crafty. The strength of Al Arabi Club is their middle players like Mohamed Ibrahim, Thiago de Oliveira, Ahmed Bassam and Amro Bassam. All of them can attack and block with the same proficiency.
Al Arabi Club’s French coach Patrick Duflos feels Al Rayyan Club, with new combination after a top Serbian professional Milos Nikic joining them, praised the opponents and expressed hopes of a long final.
“It will be a difficult and long final as we are playing against a better-looking Rayyan this time. They have had more preparation time. They have got a very seasoned pro Nikic this time. Besides, they’ve not won anything this season so they will be highly motivated to win the Emir Cup this time.”
About his own team, he said, “We’re ready for the final. We are happy to be in the final and will try to put up a great fight again,” he said.
Al Arabi Club have contested 15 finals against Al Rayyan Club in the Emir Cup and have dominated them, bagging 11 of them. Their first six had come straight against Al Rayyan when the event was launched in 1979-80.
Nikic have played mostly in Italy and the Modena Volley wing spiker was gold medallist with Serbian national team in the World League last year when they handed a 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the final. Besides, he helped his national team win the 2011 European championship, one year after he got the world championship bronze medal.
The 194-metre player has underlined his value in the Al Rayyan Club line-up, leading their attack with Cuban professional Oreol Camejo. But their attack will depend a lot on setter Andre Luiz and how well they receive Al Arabi Club’s serves.
Camejo said his team is in better shape now than it was in the Qatar Cup. The revenge is certainly on the mind of Al Rayyan Club, who had a glorious chance of winning the Gulf title. But they stumbled in the last match and slumped to the third spot. Apart from the League’s two matches, Al Rayyan Club beat Al Arabi Club in the GCC clubs championship as well.
“Yes, we are prepared for the final against Arabi once again and hope this time we will beat them. We were disappointed after losing the Qatar Cup final to them, but I think we are much stronger this time,” Camejo said.
Al Rayyan Club coach Carlos Schwanke has shown confidence in his team ahead of the final. “We are motivated for the final and hopefully we will put a good show and win the title to end the season on the top. The Emir Cup will certainly make up for lot of disappointments this season.
“We lost the Qatar Cup final to Arabi But after winning the semi-finals agisnt El Jaish 2-0 and getting some extra days to recover for the important final, we feel to be good shape,” added Schwanke.
The Al Rayyan Club coach was feeling upbeat with Nikic coming in the team. “We’ve a new combination this time as our new professional player Nikic has joined us. We’ve displayed fine team work in the playoffs and have confidence that my boys will do it again in the final,” the Brazilian said.
Emir Cup Highlight
• 29th final for Al Arabi Club
• 25th final for Al Rayyan Club
• Al Arabi Club won final 22 times and lost six times
• Al Rayyan Club won final 11 times and lost 13 times
• 16th Emir Cup final between the two teams
• Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan in final 11 times
• Al Rayyan Club beat Al Arabi Club in final four times
2016-17 Season At A Glance
QVA Cup: Al Arabi beat El Jaish in final
Super Cup: Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan
QVA League: Police winners, El Jaish runners-up, Al Arabi 3rd & Al Rayyan 4th
Qatar Cup: Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan in final