Infoinsport.com – The Saudi Pro League 2023-24 season will begin this weekend, with Al Ettifaq hosting Al-Nassr on Monday evening.
The hosts will strive to better their seventh-placed finish from last season, whereas Al-Nassr will anticipate competing strongly following their second-place finish in the previous season.
After struggling to reclaim their success in the 1980’s, when they achieved two domestic titles and two Arab Club Champions Cup victories, Al Ettifaq have taken a proactive step by hiring Steven Gerrard, a former midfielder for England and Liverpool, as their new manager.
The 43-year-old, who started his managerial career impressively by ending Rangers’ Scottish Premiership drought in 2021, before facing difficulties at Aston Villa, has successfully convinced his former international and club teammate Jordan Henderson to join The Commandos as their most notable summer signing for a fee around £12m.
Former Lyon striker Moussa Dembele and Scotland defender Jack Hendry have also become members of the club, and Sweden international Robin Quaison is likely to be very excited about the possibility of playing alongside well-known figures in European football.
However, considering that several other well-established teams in the Saudi Pro League have been spending considerably more money than Gerrard’s side in recent times, their expectations for the upcoming season may need to be more modest in order to prevent potential disappointment.
Indeed, Al-Nassr, their upcoming opponents, can rely on the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most remarkable players the beautiful game has ever seen. Additionally, Sadio Mane, who recently joined from Bayern Munich for approximately £25m, will join him in their offensive lineup.
Seko Fofana, Marcelo Brozovic, and Alex Telles have additionally been enlisted to enhance their squad depth, with Luis Castro ready to lead this exceptionally gifted group after being acquired from Botafogo in the previous month.
The 61-year-old performed exceptionally in Brazil, aiding Botafogo in attaining a significantly advantageous position at the summit of Serie A this season. Additionally, he has not suffered any defeats in the six matches he has overseen for his new team thus far, following his victory in the Arab Club Champions Cup on Saturday.
Castro’s team was trailing 1-0 to Al-Hilal after Michael scored in the 51st minute at the King Fahd Stadium. However, Ronaldo stepped up and equalized the game with 16 minutes remaining in regular time, and then scored the winning goal in extra time. It is worth noting that Al-Nassr faced even greater challenges as they were reduced to nine players when both Abdulelah Al-Amri and Nawaf Boushal were shown red cards late in the match.
After narrowly missing out on their 10th Saudi Pro League title by a margin of only five points in the previous season, Castro and his players possess a genuine conviction that they have the capability to assist the club in achieving double-digit victories this time.
Al Ettifaq vs Al-Nassr Prediction
Al Ettifaq possible starting lineup:
Victor; Al-Mousa, Tisserand, Hendry, Al-Hawsawi; Al-Kuwaykibi, Henderson, Ozdemir, Vitinho; Dembele, Quaison
Al-Nassr possible starting lineup:
Alaqidi; Al Ghanam, Alawjami, Alamri, Konan; Fofana, Brozovic, Al-Khaibari; Talisca, Ronaldo, Mane
Al Ettifaq 1-1 Al-Nassr
Due to their participation in the Arab Club Champions Cup final on Saturday, Al-Nassr will have very little time to rest and recover, which gives Al Ettifaq the chance to create an upset on the first weekend.
However, it is evident that the visitors possess a greater offensive strength compared to Gerrard’s team, and we firmly believe that they have the ability to avoid a loss, even in this unfavorable situation.