The international break brought bad news for Al Hilal, who lost their star player Neymar, but for many other Saudi Pro League players it provided an opportunity to recharge as the competition returns on Friday.
The weather has significantly cooled across Saudi Arabia, promising more exciting matches and higher attendance figures in upcoming weeks. Here are the predictions for this weekend's round of fixtures (all times UAE).
Al Taawoun v Al Ittihad (Friday, 7pm)
When the 2023/24 season got underway following heavy spending by Saudi's traditional top four in the summer, not many expected this match to be a top-of-the-table clash nearly a third of the way into the season. Al Taawoun’s exceptional form has them sitting second, two places above their star-studded opponents. The Wolves are on an eight-match winning run at home and have only lost one game all season.
After four straight wins without conceding a single goal, Al Ittihad’s momentum faltered and they have only won two of their last five matches, losing to their two fiercest rivals Al Hilal and Al Ahli. Another defeat could spell trouble for Nuno Espirito Santo just months after delivering the league title.
Prediction: Al Taawoun 2-0 Al Ittihad
Al Okhdood v Al Fayha (Friday, 7pm)
Despite their Asian Champions League distractions, Al Fayha have finally started to click into gear following a poor start to the season. They resume their campaign off the back of a three-match unbeaten run, which has lifted them into the top half of the table.
The hosts have lost three of their last four games, but as a team playing in the top division for the first time in their history, they would be happy with another point to keep them afloat off the relegation zone.
Prediction: Al Okhdood 1-1 Al Fayha
Al Fateh v Abha (Friday, 10pm)
Only Al Hilal and Al Nassr have scored more goals in the Saudi Pro League than Al Fateh. Slaven Bilic’s men have been impressive in recent weeks, winning four of their last five games, with their last two home matches seeing them register 5-1 wins over Al Ahli and Al Wehda. Mourad Batna’s red-hot form has been vital, while six of their last nine goals have been scored either by Cristian Tello or Djaniny.
Another difficult away trip awaits Abha who are without a win in their last five matches and are only outside the drop zone thanks to goal-difference.
Prediction: Al Fateh 4-0 Abha
Al Hilal v Al Khaleej (Friday, 10pm)
There is no bigger story around Al Hilal than the potentially season-ending knee injury suffered by their talisman Neymar while on international duty. But there will be no time to dwell on the Brazilian’s absence as Al Hilal look to keep their place at the top of the table when they welcome Al Khaleej. Jorge Jesus’s side have beaten difficult opponents Al Ittihad, Al Shabab and Al Ettifaq, but found things difficult against the likes of Damac and Al Fayha – the only two sides they dropped points against.
Al Khaleej have been on an upward trajectory under Pedro Emanuel, having lost just two of their last seven games after starting the season with two defeats in a row. Their captain Fabio Martins has scored twice in as many appearances against Al Hilal during his time at Al Shabab.
Prediction: Al Hilal 3-0 Al Khaleej
Al Nassr v Damac (Saturday, 7pm)
A six-match winning run came to an end unexpectedly against Abha in Al Nassr’s most recent league outing, when they gave away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2. With the certainty of one of Al Ittihad or Al Taawoun dropping points this weekend, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will be eager to bounce back and keep the pressure on leaders Al Hilal. Marcelo Brozovic is an injury doubt, but Ronaldo will relish a repeat of his hat-trick against Damac last season.
The visiting side have turned around a poor start to the campaign, and under coach Cosmin Contra, they are unbeaten in their last three, picking up seven points from those games, having collected only two points from their first six matches. Assan Ceesay and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou have scored four goals each, amounting to 50 per dent of their team’s total scoring tally this term.
Prediction: Al Nassr 4-2 Damac
Al Hazem v Al Raed (Saturday, 7pm)
There is no escaping the fact that this encounter is a relegation six-pointer at this stage of the season. Both teams have been on a dismal run of form; together, they have collected just three points from the last 30 available to them.
Al Hazem have the leakiest defence in the league with 23 goals shipped in and Al Raed have the second-poorest front line with just six goals scored.
Prediction: Al Hazem 0-0 Al Raed
Al Ahli v Al Wehda (Saturday, 10pm)
Despite the huge gulf of quality between them on paper, the two teams are only separated by three positions in the table, with Al Ahli sitting fifth and Al Wehda eighth. Both have been on the receiving end of the largest scoreline this season, losing to the same team, Al Fateh, 5-1.
Matthias Jaissle’s Al Ahli bounced back from two matches without a win, defeating Al Ittihad in the Jeddah derby thanks to Franck Kessie’s goal. They will be hoping that victory will kick-start their season as they look to return to their natural place as one of Saudi Arabia’s traditional top four, having spent last season in the second tier.
Prediction: Al Ahli 4-2 Al Wehda
Al Shabab v Al Tai (Saturday, 10pm)
The home side find themselves uncharacteristically in the bottom half of the table, having won only two matches so far this season. But there will be some excitement and the promise of a fresh start as the club play in their new stadium for the first time and under a new coach, following the appointment of former Liverpool player Igor Biscan a few days ago.
The visitors, Al Tai, are languishing in the relegation zone, having only won one of their last eight matches. The arrival of Romanian coach Laurentiu Reghecampf is yet to deliver an upturn in results or a markedly improved level of performance.
Prediction: Al Shabab 3-1 Al Tai
Al Riyadh v Al Ettifaq (Sunday, 7pm)
A classic encounter between two teams that enjoyed their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s; Al Riyadh finished runners-up in 1993 while Al Ettifaq won the league twice in 1983 and 1987, but since then both have suffered the agony of relegation and countless seasons in the doldrums.
This term, the arrival of Steven Gerrard and signings such as Jordan Henderson, Moussa Dembele and Gini Wijnaldum, promised a renaissance for Al Ettifaq, but after five wins from their first seven games, they have failed to win their two most recent games. The trip to the capital offers an opportunity to bounce back.
Prediction: Al Riyadh 0-4 Al Ettifaq