Al Batin’s spirited battle against Roshn Saudi League relegation is a dramatic storyline to keep an eye on
There are questions about whether Al Ittihad will claim a first top-flight title since 2009, if Al Nassr can get championship number 10, whether Al Shabab go from third into first and where title-holders Al Hilal will finish.
At the other end of Roshn Saudi League’s table, however, there is a situation developing that could be as dramatic as any of that and, indeed, anywhere else in the world.
On February 24, Al Batin were down, there is no other way to put it. This is a team that had collected just three points from the first 16 games.
To put it another way, when they lost 2-0 to Al Fateh, the season was already past the halfway stage and they still hadn’t won.
New coach Zdravko Logarusic talked of not giving up until it was mathematically impossible to survive. It sounded like the kind of statement that coaches always come out with, this was mission impossible.
And yet, here we are. They are now one of the form teams in the league, winning their last four home games.
They may still be in 16th and last place, but the gap from safety is now just three points –well within touching distance. It could happen.
This resurgence started on February 25 with a 1-0 win against Ettifaq. Two weeks later came a huge result with a 1-0 victory over relegation rivals Al Khaleej.
On April 5, came a 2-0 win over Al Wehda that really had fans starting to believe. And then came the headline-grabbing victory over Al Hilal.
There is a common strand in these four wins; they all came at home and they all came without conceding. Logarusic had been focusing on basics and making Al Batin difficult to beat – the rewards are there for all to see.
“All last week, our focus was on the defensive side,” Al Batin midfielder Bassam Al-Hurayji told SSC TV after the win over Al Hilal. “This is the fourth match in our stadium in which we have come out with a clean sheet.”
As well as this developing defensive solidity, there is now a belief that survival is possible and a confidence that any opponent can be defeated at home.
The mid-season addition of Uruguayan striker Renzo Lopez has helped as he has scored in three of those wins. His compatriot Martin Campana has been equally impressive in goal.
With six games remaining, Al Batin are just three points off safety though have played a game more than their fellow relegation battlers. With three games at home, then there is hope.
The penultimate match of the season is against Al Adalah, currently above the drop zone and three points ahead. It is at home and could be the game that decides the fate of both teams.
Or maybe not as there is still a long way to go.
If Al Batin keep winning at home and keep keeping clean sheets, then they have a great chance at staying up. It would be one of the greatest escape acts in football.