Al-Hilal finds itself in front of the opportunity to win the title for the third consecutive season when, on Thursday, the fierce struggle with Al-Ittihad is renewed in the last meters of the Saudi League, when the teams return to the competitions for the penultimate 29th stage after stopping for nearly a month.
The competitions were suspended for about 25 days due to the Saudi national team’s first camp in Spain, in preparation for the World Cup finals at the end of this year in Qatar, and the Olympic team’s participation in the AFC U-23 Cup, which won its title.
Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad are equal on points (61) at the top of the standings, but Al-Hilal leads at the expense of its opponent thanks to the two direct matches (Fawzan), so the two teams realize that any stumble will destroy their hopes of achieving the title.
And it will be an opportunity for Al Hilal to be crowned without waiting until the last stage, if it wins over its sixth host, Al-Fateh, in return for Al-Ittihad’s fall outside its home against the twelfth-placed agreement.
Al Hilal, the Asian champion, achieved four consecutive victories before the break to regain the lead and raise his hopes of strengthening his record in the number of league titles and raising it to 18.
Al-Hilal controls its fate, as its victory in the last two matches, which concludes the league at home against Al-Faisaly, will crown the team of Argentine coach Ramon Diaz as a champion, regardless of the outcome of the Al-Ittihad match against its Al-Batin guest.
Al Hilal recovered some of its stars who were absent from injury during the last period, such as the Peruvian Andre Carrillo, the Colombian Gustavo Cuellar, Salman Al-Faraj, Muhammad Al-Buraik and the Korean Jang Hyun Soo.
Al-Fateh had previously defeated Al-Hilal at home 3-2 with a late penalty kick by Moroccan Murad Bhatna in the first match that brought them together in the league this season, so he hopes to repeat this and disrupt his opponent’s last steps towards the title.
Al-Fateh misses the efforts of Batna and Algerian Sofiane Bendabka due to injury.
Previous match between Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq
For its part, Al-Ittihad missed an opportunity that was at hand to achieve the title, which it has been absent since 2009, after it failed to win in the last three matches and was content with one point, and fell in one of them 3-1 against Al-Hilal in particular.
Al-Ittihad, led by its Romanian coach Cosmin Contra, played three friendly matches without winning any of them, losing to Pyramids of Egypt and Al-Ahly and a draw with Abha, in a clear manifestation of the decline in its level after it remained at the top for more than 20 stages.
What makes it difficult for Al-Ittihad’s mission at Prince Muhammad Bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam is the need for Al-Ittifaq to win its match in the battle to avoid relegation, as it occupies the twelfth place with 31 points, one point away from the first places of relegation.
As for the third victory, which is six points away from Al-Ittihad, it will come to Al-Hazm, the last place holder (17 points), who had previously been relegated to the second division.