The Saudi Pro League returns this weekend with more tasty encounters following an exciting opening round of fixtures. Expect plenty more goals and perhaps first goals of the new season for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema when the action begins.
Damac v Al Riyadh (Thursday, 7pm UAE)
Following a narrow 1-0 defeat at Al Tai on the opening matchday, Damac finally dipped into the transfer market, recruiting former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Gambian forward Assan Ceesay from Serie A side Lecce.
In turn, Al Riyadh marked their return to the top-flight with a 1-0 home win over Al Wehda thanks to new signing Knowledge Musona. That triumph will give them confidence, but a first away trip will not be easy.
Prediction: Damac 1-1 Al Riyadh
Al Khaleej v Al Ahli (Thursday, 10pm)
Al Khaleej had a difficult start to the season, falling to a 3-1 away defeat at Al Fayha, but showed some promising signs. Coach Pedro Emanuel will need to get the best out of his new arrivals if his side are to avoid slipping into another relegation battle like last season when they escaped the drop zone by just three points.
After an impressive display and a 3-1 home win against Al Hazem last week, Al Ahli have to do without their hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino, who suffered a muscle injury. Coach Matthias Jaisle still has plenty of firepower in Riyad Mahrez and Allan Saint-Maximin but needs to reconfigure his team in the Brazilian’s absence.
Prediction: Al Khaleej 1-2 Al Ahli
Al Okhdood v Al Fateh (Friday, 7pm)
It was a memorable opener for Al Okkhdood as they led Al Shabab until after the hour mark before settling for a 1-1 draw in Riyadh. Coach Jorge Mendonca will take a lot of positives from the game ahead of his side’s first-ever home Saudi Pro League match.
Just like their opponents, it was a 1-1 draw for Al Fateh last week, but for Slaven Bilic’s side, the home draw against Al Taawoun will have felt more like an opportunity lost. As they make one of the longest away trips in the league to Najran, the team from Al Ahsa will hope they can start picking up wins, starting against their newly-promoted opponents.
Prediction: Al Okhdood 1-1 Al Fateh
Al Nassr v Al Taawoun (Friday, 10pm)
The 120 minutes played in the King Salman Cup final last Saturday took its toll on the Al Nassr players, meaning coach Luis Castro had to field a second string XI against Ettifaq in the league opener, going on to lose 2-1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Telles and others will be back for the home game against Al Taawoun.
Al Taawoun came away with a solid point against Al Fateh last week, but expectations will be low ahead of a second consecutive away journey. Although, coach Pericles Chamusca enjoys being the underdog and will have his eyes on an upset.
Prediction: Al Naasr 3-1 Al Taawoun
Al Wehda v Al Shabab (Friday, 10pm)
It will be an emotional Al Wehda debut for Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo against the team that first brought him to Saudi football. The Nigerian is one of two arrivals to the Mecca-based club since their 1-0 loss to newly-promoted Al Riyadh last week. Defender Jawad El Yamiq, part of the Morocco side that finished fourth in the 2022 World Cup also made the move to cement the Al Wehda defence.
Al Shabab finally ended their search for a striker by landing Habib Diallo from French side Strasbourg. The Senegal international will be tasked with converting some of the chances created by Ever Banega and company as coach Marcel Keizer’s men look to end a poor attacking run that saw them score just two goals from open play in six matches across the King Salman Cup and the league.
Prediction: Al Wehda 1-1 Al Shabab
Al Hazem v Al Ettifaq (Friday, 10pm)
It was a difficult start for the newly-promoted Al Hazem, who found themselves on the receiving end of a 3-1 defeat to star-studded Al Ahli, but they will be pleased with the performances of striker Vina who scored their only goal, lobbing Edouard Mendy from distance, and Portuguese playmaker Toze, on their debuts.
Steven Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq were the standout performers of the opening weekend, rewarding the large crowd that turned out to watch them in Dammam with a 2-1 win over Al Nassr. A first away trip awaits Jordan Henderson and company, but they should have enough in them to see off the challenge of Al Hazem.
Prediction: Al Hazem 1-2 Al Ettifaq
Abha v Al Raed (Saturday, 7pm)
Abha are at home for the second week running, having lost 3-1 to Al Hilal in their first match. Tunisian playmaker Saad Bguir continued to impress and they will once again look for him to provide the inspiration against an Al Raed side that finished just one point above them last season.
Reigning champions Al Ittihad proved too much for Al Raed who were unable to find goals at home in a 3-0 defeat. Another tough challenge awaits, but they should at least be able to break their duck this weekend.
Prediction: Abha 3-2 Al Raed
Al Hilal v Al Fayha (Saturday, 10pm)
After bouncing back from their King Salman Cup final defeat with a 3-1 win at Abha, Al Hilal are back at home for the first time this season and there will be plenty of excitement at King Fahd International Stadium as the club introduce their star signing Neymar. The game might come too early for the Brazilian to feature, but that should not stop Al Hilal from beating their fellow AFC Champions League participants.
Al Fayha had no shortage of goals last week as former Rangers man Fashion Sakala opened his account in a 3-1 win against Al Khaleej, and they will have even more firepower now with Nigerian forward Henry Onyekuru set to make his debut.
Prediction: Al Hilal 4-2 Al Fayha
Al Ittihad v Al Tai (Saturday, 10pm)
Ruthless if not entertaining, was how Nuno Espirito Santo’s side started their title defence, putting three second-half goals past Al Raed. They now return for a first home encounter of the campaign, albeit at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium as their own King Abdullah Sport City Stadium undergoes renovations ahead of hosting the Club World Cup later this year.
Al Tai kept a clean sheet and left it late to win against Damac last time out. Coach Kresimir Rezic will be looking to follow the same approach once more, but stopping Karim Benzema, last season’s top scorer Abderrazak Hamdallah, and Igor Coronado, who bagged a brace in his previous outing, will be a tough challenge.
Prediction: Al Ittihad 4-0 Al Tai