Three teams return to league action after playing in the Asian Champions League, with new league leaders Al Hilal hoping to remain at the top going into the international break. The Jeddah derby returns after two years and Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr will be eager to continue their red-hot form.
Damac v Al Hazem, Thursday, 2pm (UAE)
An emphatic 2-0 win over Al Khaleej kick-started Damac’s season, distancing them from the drop zone, but coach Cosmin Contra’s men would do well to add a second victory in a row against the bottom team in the table to build some momentum. With Al Hazem yet to win a single game this campaign and on a two-match losing streak, the task at home looks straightforward for the team from Khamis Mushait.
Prediction: Damac 2-0 Al Hazem
Al Riyadh v Al Shabab, Thursday, 5pm
It is difficult to think now that after two games of the season, Al Riyadh were 10 places above their neighbours in the league table. Going into their first encounter in the league in nearly two decades, Al Shabab are now four places and one point better off than their opponents thanks to two wins in their last three games. The gap was, however, closed last week when Al Shabab were beaten by Al Hilal while Al Riyadh got their first win since match week 1, beating Abha 1-0.
Prediction: Al Riyadh 0-3 Al Shabab
Al Taawoun v Al Tai, Thursday, 5pm
High-flying Al Taawoun are on a seven-match winning run at home extending since the end of last season. They find themselves in third place in the table and in pursuit of a third win on the trot. The team from Buraydah also has the highest number of different goal scorers in their starting XI, with nine different players getting on the score sheet already this campaign.
For Al Tai, a single win in six matches cost coach Kresimir Rezic his job. His replacement, Laurentiu Reghecampf got off to a losing start despite an improved performance in the 2-1 defeat to Al Nassr. The Romanian faces another tough challenge on the road if he is to get the side from Hail up and running.
Prediction: Al Taawoun 3-1 Al Tai
Al Ettifaq v Al Fateh, Thursday, 8pm
Two of the most exciting teams in the division lock horns in Dammam. Both have demonstrated their mental strength, jointly winning the most points from losing positions this season with ten.
Al Ettifaq are three points and two places ahead of their opponents in the league table, having lost only one game this season. Moussa Dembele has been in fine form, with his six goals this campaign only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo. Meanwhile, Slaven Bilic’s men are the only team to win by five goals twice this season, with Moroccan winger Mourad Batna leading their scorers list with six goals.
Prediction: Al Ettifaq 2-2 Al Fateh
Al Nassr v Abha, Friday, 5pm
So dominant were Al Nasr in September that Luis Castro won the SPL Coach of the Month award without the need for fans' vote. Ronaldo and company have won their last eight matches in all competitions, averaging 3.7 goals scored per game, and following a 3-1 comeback against Istiklol in the AFC Champions League in midweek, they will be raring to go again with Sadio Mane, Alex Telles and Otavio returning to the team.
Abha’s run of four consecutive defeats cost their Polish manager Czeslaw Michniewicz his job, and the club will look to bounce back under interim coach George Timis. The visitors will be boosted by the return of club captain Saad Bguir from injury.
Prediction: Al Nassr 5-0 Abha
Al Ittihad v Al Ahli, Friday, 8pm
The biggest game of the weekend sees Jeddah rivals Al Ittihad and Al Ahli clash for the first time in two years after Al Ahli spent last season in the second tier.
Al Ittihad lost the top spot last weekend after drawing 0-0 against Al Fayha last time out, and returned from Iran without playing after their midweek fixture against Sepahan was cancelled. The return of Karim Benzema should give fresh hopes for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to return to winning ways.
In turn, Matthias Jaissle’s side have hit a rough patch, winning just one of their last four matches. Against Al Ettifaq, Al Ahli failed to score for the first time this season, and their attacking trio of Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino and Allan Saint-Maximin have just one non-penalty goal between them in the last five games.
Prediction: Al Ittihad 1-1 Al Ahli
Al Okhdood v Al Hilal, Saturday, 5pm
The most successful team in the history of SPL face a side that were plying their trade in the fourth tier of Saudi football just five years ago. The first-ever encounter between the two sides is as unbalanced as it could be, with 12 places and 13 points between them in the table.
Neymar opened his Al Hilal account in midweek and Aleksandar Mitrovic scored his seventh in all competitions as they defeated Nassaji 3-0 in the Asian Champions League. Having knocked Al Ittihad off the top of the table, Jorge Jesus’ side will look to extend their winning run against an Al Okhdood side that have seen a mini-resurgence, with two wins from their last four, having never won an SPL game before that.
Prediction: Al Okhdood 1-2 Al Hilal
Al Khaleej v Al Raed, Saturday, 8pm
A surprise defeat against Damac last time out does not detract from the strong start to the season for Al Khaleej, who find themselves in 10th place, having won two of their last four matches. Pedro Emanuel’s side have been entertaining and efficient, with captain Fabio Martins playing particularly well.
It might be early days, but something has got to give if Al Raed are to avoid relegation for the first time in their history. The team from Buraidah have lost three of their last four games and are currently in the drop zone, just one point above the bottom of the table.
Al Khaleej 3-0 Al Raed
Al Wehda v Al Fayha, Saturday, 8pm
The signings of Odion Ighalo and Craig Goodwin have reinvigorated Al Wehda, who have now won two of their last three games. A 5-1 defeat to Al Fateh last time out will serve as a cautionary tale for coach Georgios Donis, who will want to get his side back to winning ways immediately.
Al Fayha created history in midweek, getting their first-ever AFC Champions League win. Moroccan playmaker Abdelhamid Sabiri, on loan from Fiorentina, has been exceptional, scoring both goals against Turkmen side Ahal on Monday, and all eyes will be on him again to deliver the goods in this mid-table clash between the teams occupying eighth and ninth place in the table. Fatigue could be the deciding factor in this fixture.
Prediction: Al Wehda 2-0 Al Fayha