Why massive Roshn Saudi League clash between Al Ittihad and Al Shabab is not to be missed
Massive Roshn Saudi League games are coming thick and fast – and this Thursday brings a huge fixture between title challengers in fine form.
If leaders Al Ittihad defeat Al Shabab then they will move six points clear at the top with just six games remaining. It does not mean that the title race will be over, but it will put the Jeddah giants in a strong position as they seek a first championship since 2008/09.
Yet, if Al Shabab go to Jeddah and win then we could be in for one of the best championship climaxes ever. Should that happen, then just three points will separate Al Ittihad, Al Nassr and Al-Shabab.
And, it is even possible that holders Al Hilal in fourth, will start sniffing the air in the hope of an unlikely tilt at first place.
The stakes, then, are high. But when you get to the business end of the season, fans would have it no other way.
Al Ittihad don’t seem to be feeling the pressure at all and are relishing the run-in. A year ago, the Tigers let a huge lead slip in the final weeks and were overtaken by Al Hilal.
This time around, coach Nuno Santo is in charge of a winning machine.
Al Ittihad have dropped just two points out of the last 33 available, recording 10 wins and a draw when the heat is on is hugely impressive. There have been just two goals conceded in the last 10 games, too.
In short, it is the form of champions.
The leaders are, however, in the unusual position of having to deal with defeat. Form in the league has been exemplary, but on Sunday they lost the semi-final of the King’s Cup to Al Hilal, 1-0 after extra-time.
The domestic championship is the priority, but the team will be looking to bounce back on Thursday and take a giant step towards the title.
Abderrazak Hamdallah has been finding the target on a regular basis and the two-time Golden Boot winner has 16 goals and is just second in the standings behind Al Hilal’s Odion Ighalo.
Centre-back Ahmed Hegazi scored an own goal to give Al-Hilal the game. The Egypt defender has performed incredibly consistently this season and has promised to make it up to the fans.
If he can help the team keep another clean sheet, then supporters will be delighted.
Al Shabab know what they have to do. If they lose, then they will be nine points behind Al Ittihad with six to play and much to do.
The Riyadh club are also in great form, with seven wins from the last nine. The defence is not as tight as their opponents and have conceded seven goals in the last five games, but they are also finding the net regularly.
Cristian Guanca has stepped up in recent weeks and all will be lifted if Carlos Jr plays a big part.
The Brazilian striker had 12 league goals before picking up an injury in February, but he came on as a substitute in the last game, a 3-2 win at Al Khaleej. That was two weeks ago and it remains to be seen how fit and sharp he is.
Al Ittihad against Al Shabab is a big game between big teams with big consequences. It is not to be missed.