Doubts mount over future of Al-Hilal manager Ramon Diaz

Speculation surrounding the future of Ramon Diaz as Al-Hilal manager is mounting after the Saudi Pro League reigning champions succumbed to a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Al-Qadisiyah. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Doubts mount over future of Al-Hilal manager Ramon Diaz

DUBAI: Speculation surrounding the future of Ramon Diaz as Al-Hilal manager is mounting after the Saudi Pro League reigning champions succumbed to a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Al-Qadisiyah in the King’s Cup round of 16 at the weekend.
The Argentine coach failed to appear at the post-match press conference and has subsequently given his players a three-day rest and left the Kingdom on a short holiday. Al-Hilal are now without a win in three matches and not back in action until Jan. 30 when they play Al-Raed.
Diaz had led Al-Hilal to their first league title since 2010/11, then took the side to the verge of continental glory, losing the 2017 AFC Champions League final to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds. But since the final defeat and the injury sustained by talisman Carlos Eduardo in the competition’s semifinal, the side’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse.
When Al-Hilal resumed league action following the end of their continental campaign, they held a four-point lead at the top of the table with three games in hand, including fixtures against bottom half sides Al-Ettifaq and Al-Raed. But three months later, Diaz’s men have seen their advantage eroded to just two points, having collected five points from possible nine in the postponed matches. Al-Hilal also lost to newly promoted Al Fayha, and are now on a three-match winless run that has opened the door for chasers Al-Ahli, who seem to be hitting form at the right time of the season.
Eduardo’s injury had a massive impact on the team. In the 13 matches prior to the Brazilian’s season-ending injury, the team won nine times. In the 12 games without him since November, they have won just five. Tellingly, Eduardo remains Al-Hilal’s top scorer in the league with six goals, despite not playing for over two months.
To add insult to injury, Syrian striker Omar Khribin has seen a dramatic drop in form. The 2017 Asian Player of the Year found the net in Al-Hilal’s first two outings but he’s since gone on an eight-match dry spell, and now has just four league goals from 12 appearances.
A major criticism directed at Diaz is his failure to strengthen the squad in the summer transfer window. Controversy surrounded the signing of Oman’s Ali Al-Habsi from English side Reading, as the goalkeeper was not included in the AFC Champions League squad, the manager preferring Uruguayan striker Matias Britos.
The signing of Britos has been questioned. The 29-year-old scored one goal in six league appearances and Diaz was so unimpressed with his abilities, that even when Al-Hilal were chasing victory at the Champions League final, the Argentine preferred to bring on 31-year-old Mokhtar Fallatah for his club debut instead of giving Britos a chance.
Diaz finds himself in a difficult situation, with the club losing another key player in Nawaf Al-Abed, who is recovering from a groin surgery in France. Fellow attacking midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari is reportedly closing in on a loan move to Spanish side Villarreal, leaving Al-Hilal extremely thin on the ground just when Diaz needs his key players the most.


Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

Updated 18 February 2019
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Jurgen Klopp tells Liverpool to beware Bayern Munich ahead of Champions League clash

  • Reds boss worried about resurgent German giants ahead of second-round first-leg clash.
  • Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich claims Liverpool are the favorites.

LONDON: Jurgen Klopp has warned his Liverpool side they will have to be at their very best if they are to beat Bayern Munich.
The Reds head into the Champions League clash as slight favorites after months at the top of the Premier League. But having drawn the German giants in the second round, Klopp has told his players they have to keep their feet on the ground worthy could end up out of the competition before it really gets going.
“It’ll be very tough,” there Liverpool manager said.
“(Bayern are) only two points off Dortmund in the domestic league and have been consistent finalists and semifinalists.
“They’re a world class team but at the same time we’re confident we can cause them problems.
“They’ve got world class players so we know how difficult it will be.
“Everyone has to be at 100 percent otherwise we’ll get nothing from the game.
“Having said that we have confidence we have the ability to hurt them, and it’s up to us to show that.”

After a tough start to the season Bayern are up to second in the Bundesliga. 


Liverpool went al the way to the final last year, before losing to Real Madrid. But the momentum created by that surprise run has been maintained in the Premier League and another trip to the Champions League knockout stages.
Bayern currently lie second in the Bundesliga and are starting to look like their old levels agains after a tough start to the season. For Klopp, who managed Dortmund before arriving at Anfield, that could spell trouble for the Reds.
“After six years of pretty much dominating the league it was clear this year was going to be a tougher situation.
“It’s actually still the same, being at the top of the league and still in the last-16 of the Champions League.
“It’s a normal situation with a high quality team.
“Munich’s situation, from my point of view, makes them even more dangerous and even more of a threat from my point of view.
“This is a competition, in Europe, where they always do well.”
For the Germans the role of underdogs suits them perfectly. At least that is according to Joshua Kimmich.
The defender said: “Liverpool are the favorites.
“They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.”
Before a ball has been kicked Bayern did receive some good news. Winger Franck Ribery was originally left out of the squad to play at Anfield and did not fly with his teammates. But after becoming a father, the Frenchman has now decided to join up with the squad and will be available for selection. One man who definitely will not make the pitch is Jerome Boateng. The central defender is suffering from a stomach virus.
The Bavarians will also have to wait until Tuesdays to determine whether winger Kingsley Coman will be able to play after picking up an ankle injury on Friday.
The Frenchman scored twice but was injured in the final stages of their 3-2 win at Augsburg.

KEY MAN — ROBERTO FIRMINO 

Of Liverpool’s brilliant attacking trio the Brazilian is perhaps the most underrated and important. When he plays well the Reds usually do likewise. He links up the play well, settling up as many goals as he scores. Liverpool will be hoping he turns up with his A-game tonight, because if he does Bayern Munich could be in for a  long night. 

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS

For once Bayern are not having it all their own way in the Bundesliga. But they are improving and giving Borussia Dortmund something to think about in the race for the title. But home advantage will be key and a resurgent Reds will prove too strong for a Bayern defence that has, on occasions this campaign, looked less than watertight. The only question is can Liverpool get a decisive lead and put the tie to bed before the second leg?