A thorough look into the Saudi Pro League for the upcoming season promises a lot of excitement and surprises, hotshot players and, as always, a look at the favourites.
with every competition in the world there are always the top dogs followed by
the underachievers and the relegation fighters.
main rivals for the past decade have been Al-Hilal of Riyadh and arch enemies
Al-Ittihad of Jeddah. These two teams have shared eight of the championships in
past decade alone.
The remaining top spots are usually shared by Riyadh duo
Al-Nasr and Al-Shabab and recent underachievers Al-Ahli(Jeddah), a team that
once boasted superstars such as former Neuchatel Xamax of Switzerland defender
Hussein Abdulghani who now plays for Al-Nasr as well as Khalid Mas’ad and Ahmad Soleimani.
Al-Ittihad are looking to build on
last season which saw them clinch the title with a five point cushion over
mixture of youth and experience always seems to work its magic as Al-Ittihad is
gifted with depth as well as talent.
have brought in one of the most complete midfielders in Omani starlet Ahmed Hadid,
an addition that enriches the midfield which consists of the local boys Manaf
Abushgeer and Saud Khariri.
veterans like Redha Tukar and Talal Al-Meshal are warming the bench just about
sums up the team’s talent.
defensive line has the familiar national face of Osama Al Muwallad . They also
boast the likes of Mohammad Noor in midfield and former Asian player of the
year, towering defender Hamad Al-Montashari who played a vital role in the team's Asian triumphs in the middle of the decade.
All eyes will be on Naif Hazazi the number nine and heir to
Yasser Al Qahtani in the national team. To
further prove his case as an exceptional striker Hazazi will have to perform at
the highest level. Much like Qahtani who performs well even if Hilal struggle,
Hazazi’s reputation outside Saudi Arabia will remain low until he dazzles on
the Asian stage and pushes Ittihad towards their third Asian title.
only 20 years of age Hazazi is quick, splits defences and has reasonably good
dribbling skills. He probably is the sole reason the national team still have a
chance for a World Cup berth as he has been sensational in the Qualifiers
scoring game winning goals and filling the void left by Al Qahtani.
season’s preparations have been more than satisfactory Al Ittihad has already
played against the B teams of Real Madrid and Sevilla which they both won by a
1-0 score respectively. They also played a friendly with Real Madrid and drew
1-1 against the mighty Spanish club.
Al Ittihad have also picked up a couple of good loan signings in Argentinian Luciano Leguizamon and Tunisia's Amine Chermiti.
Al Hilal, who had to endure a heartbreaking loss last season to Al-Ittihad on the last day to lose the title, had
their own preparations - demolishing Birmingham City 3-0 and playing
out an enthralling 2-2 draw with Austria’s Rapid Lens.
Newly appointed coach
Belgian Eric Gerets is seemingly doing a good job with the Riyadh team
and it is heavily expected to fight it out with Ittihad for the Saudi title.
is the most popular club in Saudi Arabia with the largest fan base and golden
boy Yasser Al Qahtani who is keen to join in the footsteps of Khalid Al
Teemawi, Sami Al Jaber and Yousef AlThunayan.
for Yasser, he has been off-form recently. Al-Hilal comes a very close second to
Ittihad in terms of squad depth and national team players.
In terms of spending
power Hilal dominates most of the other teams and it is no wonder that in their
ranks reside internationals such as Christian Wilhelmsson, Thiago Neves and
Korea’s Lee Young-Pyo.
also are able to keep their talented players like rock solid Osama Al-Hawsawi
and pint sized Mohammad Al-Shalhoub.
Al Qahtani is also treated like an idol by most fans and that’s why he enjoys
being in the city. Their recent stand out player however is the imposing Majed
Al-Marshedi; the best player at the 2009 Gulf Cup in Oman. Standing over six feet tall, Marshedi is extremely athletic and excellent in the air. He
sole-handedly guided Saudi Arabia to the final of that competition where they
lost to Oman on penalties
of these two clubs Al Shabab might not have achieved a lot in the league,
finishing 20 points behind Al Ittihad, but they did clinch the final champions
league spot and they added the King Abdullah cup.
stand out players are the Otaif brothers who are also in the national squad
and play one behind the other.
Abdoh plays further up than Ahmed in the midfield
and supplies star striker Nasser Al Shamrani. A few good games and extra effort
can see Al-Shabab break into the top three and improve on last season’s fourth
Shabab were able to capture former Hilal star Tarik El Taib. The Lybian could prove
to be a star in midfield. Another African this time in former Al Ahly (Egypt)
striker; Angolan Flavio should provide firepower in attack.
Al-Hassa club Al Fateh are in the top flight this year and are considered to be dark horses
especially with the support of an eastern Saudi public eager to make their
mark on the championship.
Ettifaq cannot be written off as well as they emerge from time to time and
break into the top four while Al Nasr have signed former K-League player of the year and 2002 and 2006 World Cup star Lee Chun-soo.
all these great teams vying for the title, the Saudi Pro-League will provide us
with hunger, excitement and maybe even a few Saeed Al Owairan style goals.