MUSCAT, september 12 – The Omantel League (OL) will kick off on Wednesday with defending champions Dhofar take on the newly promoted Mirbat. Runners-up Al Shabab host newcomers Al Mudhaibi, while Al Suwaiq are set to take on Saham in the key clash of the week.
This season, seven matches are to be played on every matchday as the Oman Football Association are set for a hectic calender.
In the other fixtures on Wednesday, newcomers Al Salam host Al Oruba, Oman Club travel to meet Al Nasr, Al Nahdha take on Sohar and Muscat clash with Fanja in the capital city derby.
This season, the Oman football league came back to its previous name ‘Omantel League’ after four editions with the name of ‘Omantel Professional League’. Another important change for this season is that, three teams will be relegated to the First Division League and the same number of teams will be promoted to OL.
At Salalah Stadium (20:45), Dhofar look in their very best shape to overcome newcomers Mirbat after they were crowned with the season-opening Super Cup recently.
The Salalah giants will be the first team to wear a kit with a star print on it after they claimed the 10th title of the league last season. According to the new high-profile moves that Dhofar signed in the summer transfer window, they are not only the favourites to beat Mirbat but also the top runners for the title for the second straight season.
One point from the game might be fair enough for Mirbat who were back to the top league after more than 20 years of absence when they defeated Al Khabourah in the promotion play-offs.
Al Shabab who were very close to clinch the title for the first time last year, will start a new journey with the local manager Ali al Khanbashi. They will host the First Division League promoters Al Mudhaibi at Sultan Qaboos Sport Complex, at 18:45. Al Mudhaibi has retained their young manager Anwar al Habsi, who helped them to promote to Omantel League for the first time in history. It is a season with different hopes, as Al Shabab want to compete for the title, while Al Mudhaibi dream to stay in the top flier.
The key clash of the week will be at Sohar Stadium when Al Suwaiq play with Saham in the Al Batinah derby. It is always expected to see an exciting game when they meet each other. Last Saturday, Al Suwaiq lost the Super Cup but they had a good game with their well-known Romanian manager Belaci.
With a number of good signings in the transfer window such as AbdulAziz al Muqbali, Khalid al Hajri, Abdullah Ding and goalkeeper Fayez al Rushidi, it seems to be a very promising season for Al Suwaiq to chase the OL title. Saham has just arrived from their external camp in Qatar with Omani manager Yaqoob Ismaeil, who rescued them in the final rounds last season.
Newcomers Al Salam will open the action, hosting Al Oruba at Sohar Stadium. It kicks off at 17:45. It will be big occasion for Al Salam players and their fans as the club plays its first game in OL.
Despite Dhofar, Al Suwaiq and Al Shabab, the preparation of rest of the teams were not promising.
In another important fixture of the week, Muscat are hosting neighbours Fanja in the capital city derby at Seeb Stadium at 18:45. Muscat lost good number of players in the summer, while Fanja faced many management issues that might affect their performance in the campaign.
Al Nasr will hope to be a serious competitor this season with the Egyptian manger Hamza al Jamal. They will take on Oman Club at Salalah Stadium at 17:40.
In the last fixture of the first OL week, Sohar will travel to play with Al Nahdha at the Al Buraimi Stadium. Last season, Al Nahdha manager Khalifa al Muzahimi was the only manager who coached a team for the whole season.
This season, the trust came back to local managers as eight of the 14 clubs start with Omani manager. The rest are: two from Romania, two from Egypt, one from Brazil, while one is Portuguese.
Jaber al Ajmi