The final matchweek of Saudi Pro League takes place across the weekend before the international break, and it will see leaders Al Hilal facing one of their toughest challenges yet when they take on high-flying Al Taawoun.
Meanwhile, Al Ittihad start life without their title-winning manager Nuno Espirito Santo following his midweek sacking and Al Nassr look to continue their winning run.
Al Khaleej v Al Tai – Thursday, 7pm
An important encounter in the race to escape relegation between two teams separated by only one point in the SPL table. Both teams have won two of their last 10 matches, but it is the visitors who have momentum on their side, having collected four points from their last two games.
Under Romanian coach Laurentiu Reghecampf, Al Tai have been scoring for fun, bagging six goals in their previous two matches. Rakan Shamlan scored in both games and will be looking to add to his tally.
Prediction: Al Khaleej 3-3 Al Tai
Al Raed v Al Shabab – Thursday, 7pm
It will be a long night for Al Raed in front of their home fans. Bottom of the table and without a win in seven matches, they take on a rejuvenated Al Shabab side who, under coach Igor Biscan, have won two of their last three matches, including beating defending champions Al Ittihad last time out.
While Senegalese forward Habib Diallo continues to misfire for the visitors, the return of Carlos Junior, their top scorer last season, has helped Al Shabab find goals. Expect him to be on the scoresheet again in Buraidah.
Prediction: Al Raed 0-3 Al Shabab
Al Riyadh v Al Fateh – Thursday, 10pm
The home side have collected a respectable seven points from the last 15 available and look to have kick-started their season as they seek to avoid an immediate return to the second tier in their first season in the top flight since 2004-05.
Slaven Bilic’s Al Fateh lost to Al Hilal 2-0 last time out, but that defeat to the unbeaten leaders will not be a cause for concern for the Croatian coach whose side had won four on the trot before that. One of the division’s best attacking sides will be eager to bounce back.
Prediction: Al Riyadh 1-4 Al Fateh
Damac v Al Ahli – Thursday, 10pm
Despite there being seven places in the table between the two teams, this promises to be an exciting encounter between two in-form teams. The hosts won three of their last five and only lost one in six, including draws against Al Hilal and Al Taawoun. Georges-Keven N’Koudou continues to impress for them.
Al Ahli bounced back after their defeat to Al Hilal, beating Al Riyadh 3-0 to overtake Al Fateh into fourth place. Coach Matthias Jaissle’s men have been inconsistent, and Roberto Firmino’s continued goal drought seemed to have hurt them, but they will be encouraged by the goals of Feras Al Buraikan and Gabriel Veiga in their last game.
Prediction: Damac 2-2 Al Ahli
Al Hilal v Al Taawoun – Friday, 7pm
With over a third of the season gone, Al Hilal are yet to lose a game and they are opening up a gap at the top of the table thanks to their recent run of five consecutive wins. If any team can dare to stop them, it will be this season’s dark horses, Al Taawoun.
Coach Pericles Chamusca’s side have already beaten Al Nassr and drew with Al Ittihad, establishing them as title contenders at this stage of the campaign as they sit third. They are unbeaten in six, but a recent run of three draws has slowed down their momentum.
Prediction: Al Hilal 1-1 Al Taawoun
Al Ittihad v Abha – Friday, 10pm
There was a time this season where Al Ittihad seemed to win every game and never concede, but that time has long gone and the defending champions are now on a five-match winless run. Coach Nuno Espirito Santo paid the price, losing his job after a 2-0 defeat to Iraq’s Air Force Club in the AFC Champions League in midweek.
Abha have finally found their mojo under new coach Youssef Al Manai. They won as many in their last two matches as they did in the 10 before that and have climbed out of the drop zone into 12th place. Can their revival continue or will the hosts get a reaction to Nuno's sacking?
Prediction: Al Ittihad 2-1 Abha
Al Okhdood v Al Hazem – Saturday, 7pm
Two newly-promoted sides lock horns in a game that could end up determining which one of them returns to the First Division League come May. Both are on seven points, in relegation positions, with only goal difference favouring Al Okhdood.
Al Hazem had a mini resurgence following the appointment of Jose Carreno as their new manager, collecting four points from their first two matches under the Uruguayan before losing to Al Wehda in their most recent league outing.
Prediction: Al Okhdood 0-2 Al Hazem
Al Fayha v Al Ettifaq – Saturday, 7pm
Inconsistency has been the only constant for both teams this season, and it shows. Both have a win, a draw and a loss in their three most recent matches. Although only two places separate them in the table, a strong start to the season has Al Ettifaq sitting on 21 points in seventh, while Al Fayha only have 15 in ninth.
Zambian forward Fashion Sakala has been in hot form for Al Fayha, scoring six goals this season, while Al Ettifaq continue to struggle in attack in the absence of their main man Moussa Dembele who had netted seven already before his injury, and his absence will be heavily felt again.
Prediction: Al Fayha 3-1 Al Ettifaq
Al Wehda v Al Nassr – Saturday, 10pm
Al Nassr did not need Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Al Duhail in Qatar 3-2 in the AFC Champions League midweek, and the Portuguese ace will be nicely rested ahead of the trip to Mecca, having not travelled with the squad.
Anderson Talisca delivered with a hat-trick midweek and his scoring form has been nothing short of exceptional in the SPL, too. Meanwhile, Al Wehda will rely on the attacking prowess of Craig Goodwin who is enjoying his best scoring season in SPL with five goals to his name already.
Prediction: Al Wehda 2-4 Al Nassr