Al-Hilal’s key man Khribin backed to fire his side to glory
Al-Hilal’s key man Khribin backed to fire his side to glory
The first leg in Riyadh ended 1-1 with Khribin, who almost led Syria into the 2018 World Cup, scoring his 10th goal of the tournament. His strike eight minutes before half-time canceled out an early opener from Urawa’s Rafael Silva.
Al-Hilal, beaten in the 2014 final by Western Sydney Wanderers, dominated but could not take an advantage into today’s return match in Japan.
With Urawa scoring an away goal in Riyadh, it puts the emphasis back on Al-Hilal to score at Saitama Stadium.
With Khribin among the most in-form strikers in Asia and the leading goalscorer in the continental tournament, midfielder Mohammed Al-Shalboub is confident of victory. “Ever since joining up, he has put in so much effort and will never accept defeat,” Al Shalboub was quoted as saying by the Asian Football Confederation.
“He is very important for us. I think he deserves to be AFC Player of the Year.”
Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz has been linked with the national team job in Saudi Arabia after the dismissal of fellow Argentine Edgardo Bauza, but says he is focused only on the Champions League final.
“This is the final and you expect the final to be tough,” Diaz said.
“We showed in the first leg that we can make chances and we will be looking to do the same in the second.” Al-Hilal, who won the Asian Club Championship in 1991 and 2000 but are yet to win the Asian Champions League that was established in 2003, will be without star Eduardo.
The Brazilian midfielder tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first leg and is likely to be replaced by Saudi international Nawaf Al-Abed. Urawa, playing in front of a sell-out crowd of over 60,000 fans in Saitama, is aiming to repeat its 2007 triumph and to bring the title to Japan for the first time since 2008.
Coach Takafumi Hori has promised an improvement in his team’s display from the first leg in Riyadh.
“I’m happy that we got a 1-1 draw away from home — it’s a good result for us against a very good Al-Hilal side,” Hori said.
“They dominated possession and applied a lot of pressure on us, but our players defended well, and I am thankful to them. But the second game will be something different in front of our own supporters. We will put in a different performance.”
The winner will represent Asia in the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup next month.
Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London
- New boss Jorge Jesus to give start to new star signing after $17 million move from Al-Ain last week.
- Al-Hilal coach keen to put on a good show in London and start season with silverware against Al-Ittihad.
LONDON: Jorge Jesus confirmed Omar Abdulrahman will make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
The UAE playmaker joined the Saudi Pro League champions last week in a loan deal from Al-Ain that was worth $17 million, a fee that has only been surpassed once in football history.
The 26-year-old has been training with his new teammates at English football’s HQ at St. George’s Park this week and traveled down to London on Friday with the rest of the team ahead of the showpiece game at Loftus Road.
Abdulrahman has not played since May, when Al-Ain were dumped out of the AFC Champions League by Lekhwiya, and he was not considered for the Arab Club Champions Club on Sunday, but Jesus said the 2016 Asian Player of the Year is line to make his first appearance for his boyhood club this weekend.
“Omar is training with the team for five or six days,” said Jesus. “Intelligent players like Omar learn fast, so that’s why he will be part of the game.”
There are various subplots to the game in west London, not least the fact that Al-Ittihad coach Ramon Diaz comes up against the club that fired him in February. He won the double in the first season in Riyadh and then choreographed Al-Hilal’s run to the final of the AFC Champions League in his second. Now he goes up against Jesus, the Portuguese tactician who replaced him this summer.
“It’s true Diaz could know the players more and this could influence the match, but they are working with my ideas today and I expect the match to be an excellent game,” said Jesus.
Al-Hilal lost the Super Cup the last time it was held in London, losing to Al-Ahli on penalties in a thriller at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Jesus knows this year’s match could provide a launchpad for the season ahead and broaden the appeal of football in the Kingdom.
“Everybody knows the importance of this match, because we play outside Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It represents the image of our football. We are happy to be present in London and play the Saudi Super Cup here. The eyes of Europe sees London as the center of football, so we need to create a good image of Saudi football.”
Jorge Jesus is looking to get his reign as Al-Hilal coach off to a winning start at QPR's Loftus Road ground on Saturday.
Jesus will be without the injured Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed while national team full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani will undergo a late fitness test.
“We are missing some players but that should not reduce the importance of some players we have in the squad,” said Jesus. “We have to find our best combination of players to go to the match with.”
Mohammad Al-Shalhoub will captain the side from midfield following the departure of Osama Hawsawi and knows bragging rights are up for grabs on Saturday between Saudi Arabia’s two most successful clubs who have won the top prize in the Kingdom 23 times between them.
“It’s one match, there is no other chance,” he said. “We will do our best to win the cup. We can start the season well if we win this cup. We will fight hard to win, but Ittihad is doing their hardest to win it, too. We are super motivated to show a good level and start with a Saudi Super Cup victory.”
Al-Hilal labored to a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Sunday night and know they will need to be much nearer their best against last season’s King’s Cup winners.
“In the beginning of the season, you can have some difficulties,“ Al-Shalhoub said. “Our first home game in the Arab Cup we showed a good level, but we have to me more ready against Ittihad.”