It’s time for another weekend of Saudi Pro League action with Al Nassr hoping to bounce back from a poor start to the season, while the Jeddah duo of Al Ahli and Al Ittihad will battle with Steven Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq for top spot in the league – all three sides boast 100 per cent records so far.
Al Tai v Al Wehda
An early mid-table clash between two teams who have picked up three points each from their opening two matches. Back at home after a difficult trip in which they were beaten 2-0 by Al Ittihad, coach Kresimir Rezic’s side will look to deploy the same pragmatic approach that saw them snatch a 1-0 win over Damac in their opening match. For Al Wehda, the inclusion of new signing Odion Ighalo will be a huge boost. The Nigerian netted 52 league goals across his spells at Al Shabab and Al Hilal and will bring a lot of experience for coach Georgios Donis’ team.
Prediction: Al Tai 0-1 Al Wehda
Al Ahli v Al Okhdood
Last term, Al Okhdood did the double over their opponents in the First Division League, but their realities are now contrasting, with Al Ahli having added some of the best players in world football to their ranks. The Jeddah-based side lead the early table and will want to keep their 100 per cent record intact with another attacking display as Roberto Firmino returns from injury. It will take a heroic effort from the visitors to avoid a hammering.
Prediction: Al Ahli 4-1 Al Okhdood
Al Riyadh v Al Ittihad
The team from the capital have presented themselves well on their return to the top division for the first time in two decades. Knowledge Musona has been crucial to their chances, but the Zimbabwe captain will find himself facing one of the best defensive midfields in the game in the form of N’Golo Kante and Fabinho. At the other end, Karim Benzema is still looking for this first Roshn Saudi League goal, but that has not stopped Al Ittihad from winning back-to-back games to start their title defence.
Prediction: Al Riyadh 1-3 Al Ittihad
Al Ettifaq v Al Khaleej
In derbies, anything can happen, and that will be the case as the two sides from the Eastern Province face-off in Dammam. But Al Ettifaq will have form on their side. Coach Steven Gerrard’s side have won both their first two games, while their opponents have lost both. Jordan Henderson returns after missing last game through illness.
Prediction: Al Ettifaq 2-1 Al Khaleej
Al Raed v Al Hilal
Having been held to a 1-1 draw at home by Al Fayha, Al Hilal will still be without the injured new signing Neymar, but two recent arrivals are set for their debuts in Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and former Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. The record champions should be too strong for Al Raed who are yet to pick up points this season.
Prediction: Al Raed 0-4 Al Hilal
Al Fayha v Al Hazem
The home team have started brightly, collecting four points from their opening two matches. Zambian forward Fashion Sakala became only the second Al Fayha player to score in their first two league matches, and he will look to add to his tally. Nigerian duo Henry Onyekuru and Anthony Nwakaeme add to the side’s attacking threat while Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic will ensure they remain air-tight at the back. Al Hazem have found life back in the top division difficult and remain without points.
Prediction: Al Fayha 3-1 Al Hazem
Al Shabab v Damac
The turmoil at Al Shabab continues. Poor recruitment, a slow start to the season and now they lost their star defender Hassan Tambakti who joined Al Hilal earlier this week. The home fans will not accept anything less than a win, but in Cosmin Contra, Damac have a coach capable of delivering results. With both sides sitting on just one point each, this is likely to be one of the most closely fought games of the weekend.
Prediction: Al Shabab 0-0 Damac
Al Taawoun v Abha
Two teams looking to punch above their weight have started positively. The hosts have four points, having registered a famous 2-0 win over Al Nassr in their most recent game, which they will look to build on. Abha lost to Al Hilal but bounced back with a victory against Al Raed. They will look for captain Saad Bguir to inspire them yet again.
Prediction: Al Taawoun 2-2 Abha
Al Fateh v Al Nassr
Two defeats and a late escape in the AFC Champions League play-off do not bode well for one of the highest spending sides in the league, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Sadio Mane will be eager to make amends against Al Fateh. Their task will not be made easy against Slaven Bilic’s pragmatic side who impressed in a 3-1 win over Al Okhdood last time.
Prediction: Al Fateh 2-3 Al Nassr