Al Ahli have had a week of ups and downs as they were first eliminated from the Saudi King’s Cup after a 1-0 loss to Al Faisaly, before they defeated Tractor Sazi to confirm qualification from their group in the 2018 AFC Champions League.
To top off their tiring week, they face Al Hilal in the penultimate matchday of the 2017/18 Saudi Pro League. This match is dubbed the title decider, with a win for Al Hilal enough for them to win the league meanwhile Al Ahli need to win in this matchweek and the next to confirm their victory.
The question is, will Al Ahli manage to fix their inconsistency issues ahead of the Al Hilal match? Or will they fail at winning the league title once again?
GOAL looks at three factors that could affect the clash against Al Hilal.
This has the potential to be the biggest nightmare for Rebrov and his players, as the team has a great deal of international players in the squad who just came off the back of their preparation for the FIFA World Cup. The likes of Mark Milligan, Mohammed Amine ben Amor and most of the Saudi players were on international duty before returning for the King’s Cup, AFC Champions League and Saudi Pro League clashes.
Taking control of this situation with an effective training schedule is the best-case scenario for Al Ahli as they play a team who will also suffer from this aspect in Al Hilal. Therefore, preventing exhaustion will play a key role in helping Al Ahli win.
There is no doubt that clubs with the size of Al Ahli and Al Hilal may look to be greedy in terms of chasing titles. However, the way Rebrov dealt with the final minutes against Al Faisaly was odd, with the head coach not looking to initiate attacks and go for the win as he was expected to at high risk. Instead, he waited until injury time to allow the team to go on all out attack mode and search for the equalizer, which they failed to do. This was evident in the post-match press conference, when Rebrov blamed the refereeing decisions instead of himself or his players for the loss.
Despite the loss to Al Faisaly, Al Ahli’s players should be prepared to enter this match with positivity as they also face a side who may be in a poor state mentally. Al Hilal were just on the end of a loss to Al Ain and elimination from the AFC Champions League Group Stages, so there is no time for Al Ahli to think of their past loss and instead, should focus on how they can take advantage of Al Hilal’s poor state.
This does not mean that Al Ahli should disrespect Al Hilal due to their poor form, as Al Hilal are still at the top of the table and one of the better teams in Saudi Arabia. Making sure that the players are focused throughout the match and on this goal specifically will be Rebrov’s most important task.