The veteran Portuguese star, Cristiano Ronaldo, is going through his first serious test with Al-Nasr Saudi Arabia since his arrival last month with a fictional deal, when he meets Al-Ittihad, Thursday, in the semi-finals of the Saudi Super Cup for football, while Al-Hilal faces Al-Fayha in the second semi-final.
And Al-Nasr came out the winner in the first official appearance of the best player in the world five times, on Sunday, against Al-Ettifaq with a single goal, which kept him at the top of the Saudi League, a point behind its rival Al-Hilal, who played more matches.
Al-Hilal participated in the Super Cup as the league champion last season, and Al-Fayhaa as the King’s Cup champion, while Al-Ittihad participated as the league’s runner-up, with Al-Nasr third in the league instead of the cup runner-up (Al-Hilal).
Al-Hilal has three titles in the competition, compared to two for Al-Nasr, and a title for Al-Fateh, Al-Shabab and Al-Ahly.
The Super Cup system in past years consisted of one match that brought together the league and cup champions, but with its new system it follows in the footsteps of the Spanish Super Cup competition that Saudi Arabia recently hosted with the participation of four clubs and Barcelona crowned its title.
Al-Nasr and Al-Ittihad met this season in the local league, and the match that witnessed the expulsion of a player from each team ended in a goalless draw, noting that Al-Ittihad won last season back and forth (3-1 and 3-0).
The two teams are experiencing a distinguished season, as each of them suffered only one loss, similar to Al-Hilal. Al-Ittihad is currently ranked third in the league, two points behind Al-Nassr, after 14 games, and reached the quarter-finals of the King’s Cup.
As for Al-Nassr, it sits on top and qualified for the quarter-finals of the King’s Cup, and for this reason each team will throw all its weight in order to settle the final ticket in its favour, and each of them qualifies for that in light of the presence of a large number of distinguished elements in the two teams.
The Moroccan top scorer, Abd al-Razzaq Hamdallah, and the Brazilian trio, Romarinho Da Silva, Igor Coronado, goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe, and the Egyptians Tariq Hamed and Ahmed Hegazy, stand out in Al-Ittihad.
While Al-Nasr includes Ronaldo, nicknamed “Madeira Rocket”, who will turn thirty-eight at the end of next week, the Brazilian Talisca, the league’s top scorer (12 goals), and his compatriot Luiz Gustavo, along with the new Argentine goalkeeper Agustin Rossi, substitute for the injured Colombian David Ospina, Abdullah Al-Omari and Abdul Rahman Gharib.
Crescent to avoid a new surprise
This confrontation precedes the match between Al-Hilal, the defending champion, and Al-Fayhaa at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, with a preference on paper for the first, especially in light of its competitor’s thirteenth place in the league with 4 victories in 14 matches, but the latter achieved a historic victory with a penalty shootout over Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final last May.
Al-Hilal won with two clean goals when they met, last August, in the league.
Despite the faltering start of Al-Fayhaa in the league this season, it succeeded in restoring its balance in the recent period, before losing its last match against Al-Ittihad by three.
In Al-Fayhaa, his Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, Brazilian Paulinho, Nigerian Anthony Nwakaimi, Sami Al-Khaibri and Sultan Mendash stand out.
Although Al-Hilal is still suffering from successive injuries in its ranks, the latest of which was Brazilian player Michel Delgado, it continues its steadfastness and clinging to the title of the league.
The club, nicknamed “Al-Zaeem”, is awaiting participation in the FIFA Club World Cup, on February 4, when it will face Moroccan Wydad Casablanca, as a representative of the Asian continent.
It is expected that the Al-Hilal list will witness the return of its captain, Salman Al-Faraj, and his Nigerian scorer, Odion Ighalo, after they recovered from injury.
In the capital team, his Korean defender Hyun-Soo Jang, Colombian Gustavo Cuellar, Peruvian Andre Carrillo, Mali Musa Mariga, Saud Abdel Hamid, Mohamed Kno and Salem Al Dosari stand out in the capital.