Attention will centre on wounded Riyadh giants for match-week nine in the 2020/21 Saudi Professional League.
Both holders Al Hilal and 2018/19 winners Al Nassr were defeated last time out. The former can, confidently, point to their four-point lead in the standings ahead of Monday’s date with Al Qadsiyah, while a harrowing seventh defeat for the crisis-addled latter – also against promoted opposition in Al Batin – could see them hit rock bottom.
Progress will be eagerly watched by second-placed Al Ahli Jeddah ahead of Tuesday’s clash at stumbling Al Fateh.
Here is a rundown, with Wyscout’s help, of this round’s trio of standout fixtures:
AL QADSIYAH V AL HILAL (MONDAY, 18:30)
All good things come to an end.
Predatory Al Wehda striker Ahmed Abdoh Jaber’s 91st minute smash into the roof of Abdullah Al Jadani’s net from close range caused Hilal to taste top-flight defeat for the first time since August 20. This imperious 11-game run saw 10 wins, seven clean sheets and 23 goals accrued, at the cost of just four let in.
Intriguingly for the chasing pack, a 2-0 defeat at Fateh would follow on Thursday in the King’s Cup. This was the first time they’d suffered successive losses since April 2019.
It is now up to Qadsiyah to show whether the visage has, truly, cracked.
Tunisian supremo Yousef Al Mannai has overseen an assured comeback after a season away, leading his troops to sixth even though their average age is the second lowest on 26.9.
Midfielder Hassan Al Amiri is the top-scoring Saudi on four strikes. A direct approach via an attack lit up by Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla has, also, seen them record 106 attempts (fourth most) and 294 dribbles (the most).
They have enough to unsettle and hurt on the counter-attack a measured Al Hilal whose average possession of 64.4 per cent is 6.5 per cent more than anyone else.
A return to winning ways for the champions will be hard fought.
Prediction: Al Qadsiyah 1-3 Al Hilal
AL BATIN V AL NASSR (MONDAY, 16:10)
Positives are in short supply at Nassr.
Relief from Wednesday’s passage into the King’s Cup quarter-finals is tempered by a grinding return to top-flight duties. The embattled Rui Vitoria is, there, confronted by a four-match winless run, from which only Damac’s continuing travails are preventing them from propping up the entire division.
2019 global top scorer Abderrazak Hamdallah has one goal from four appearances, $18 million summer addition Pity Martinez has produced one assist in 319 minutes and South Korea left-back Kim Jin-su’s campaign is likely over because of a serious foot injury less than four months since his heralded arrival from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Teenage attacker Ayman Yahya, one of precious-few positives from this draining season, is also now suffering with an abdominal problem.
Into this maelstrom comes the Batin clash.
The reigning Prince Mohammad bin Salman League victors have cut an assured presence, back in the top flight since 2018/19’s relegation. Jose Garrido’s side have scored the same number of goals as Hilal (13) and let in fewer goals than Ahli (11/13).
Set-piece wizard Youssef El Jebli should be fully fit after he received a knock in the 3-0 Cup triumph versus Abha. The Dutch playmaker produced an assist in Al Faisaly’s 3-2 win against Nassr in March.
Expect Nassr’s five-game winless SPL streak to be extended.
AL AHLI JEDDAH V AL FATEH (TUESDAY, 20:50)
The big man is back, for Ahli.
Omar Al Somah’s presence in training has lifted spirits after progression up to second place in the SPL was checked by 2-0 defeat to promoted Al Ain in the King’s Cup.
The Syria superstar – scorer of 172 goals from 196 run-outs in Ahli colours – will bolster hopes of achieving consistency, beginning with their test versus Fateh. This is essential if Hilal’s, relative, wobble is to be capitalised on.
Ahli have not won successive matches, in all competitions, since their opening two fixtures. They’ve also recorded four defeats from 10 matches since October 18’s kick-off.
Imminent opponents Fateh were undefeated in their first three games as they looked poised to build on last term’s great escape, yet they’ve been downed in four of their next six games.
Morale will, though, be bolstered by their emphatic Cup victory against Hilal.
But with the SPL’s third-worst defence, Al Somah will be licking his lips.
Prediction: Al Ahli Jeddah 2-1 Al Fateh
MATCH-WEEK NINE FIXTURES
16:10 Al Batin v Al Nassr
18:30 Al Qadsiyah v Al Hilal
18:55 Al Taawoun v Al Shabab
20:50 Al Ittihad v Al Raed
16:40 Damac v Abha
18:50 Al Faisaly v Ettifaq
19:20 Al Wehda v Al Ain
20:50 Al Ahli Jeddah v Al Fateh
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