Saudi Arabia set to begin World Cup preparations with friendly against Moldova

Juan Antonio Pizzi will take charge of Saudi Arabia for the first time against Moldova. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia set to begin World Cup preparations with friendly against Moldova

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has announced a 28-man squad for the second stage of the Green Falcons’ preparations for the World Cup.
The party will gather in Jeddah on Tuesday for a seven-day training camp which culminates with a friendly match against Moldova at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on Feb. 26. Six of the squad (goalkeeper Abdullah, defenders Assiri and Hassan Muath and midfielders Ibrahim Ghaleb, Hattan Bahebri and Al-Kuwaikbi) are also part of the 19-man Green Falcons squad that will take on Iraq in Basra two days later.
The late addition of the Moldova game to the hectic schedule means Saudi Arabia will now play at least six friendly matches between now and their opening World Cup Group A match with Russia on June 14 — with the possibility of three more to come, including a high-profile game with Italy on May 28.
Pizzi’s squad for the Jeddah camp and the Moldova match heralds first call-ups for Al-Shabab midfielders Abdulwahab Jaafar and Abdullah Al-Khaibari as well as Al-Ettifaq winger Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi following impressive league campaigns.
Al-Ittihad goalkeeper Fawaz Al-Qarni returns to the squad after a four-year absence, with the last of his two caps a 2-0 friendly defeat against Georgia in 2014. Al-Qarni’s hot form (he has not conceded a goal in 303 minutes of league football) in recent weeks means he is one of five goalkeepers called up to the Jeddah camp as competition for the three goalkeeper spots on the plane to Russia 2018 intensifies. Al-Ahli duo Yasser Al-Mosaileem and Mohammed Al-Owais join Al Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf and Al-Nassr’s Waleed Abdullah to complete the quintet of goalkeepers looking to present their credentials for the No. 1 spot.
Another Al-Ittihad man making a return to the squad is defender Ahmed Assiri who has ten caps to his name but has not featured for the Green Falcons since their 7-2 friendly victory over Cambodia in January last year. Assiri was not part of the squad that successfully navigated the World Cup qualifiers.
Absent from the squad are all of the nine Saudi players who have joined Spanish clubs in the January transfer window, led by midfielder Yahya Al-Shehri and wingers Fahad Al-Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari, as the training camp falls outside the designated FIFA International Match Calendar.
Left-back Abdulrahman Al-Obaid is the highest profile exclusion from the squad as he was pipped for the two slots in his position by Al-Ahli’s Mansour Al-Harbi and Al Hilal’s Yasser Al-Shahrani.
Al-Hilal duo Nawaf Al-Abed and Salman Al-Faraj were not considered due to injury, while vice-captain Taisir Al-Jassim has made an immediate return to the squad following full recovery from ruptured knee ligaments.

Squad for next week’s training camp and match against Moldova

Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al Mosaileem (Al-Ahli); Waleed Abdullah (Al-Nassr); Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal); Fawaz Al-Qarni (Al-Ittihad)

Defenders: Osama Hawsawi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr), Motaz Hawsawi, Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli), Ahmed Assiri (Al-Ittihad); Hassan Muath (Al-Shabab).

Midfielders: Ibrahem Ghaleb, Abdulaziz Al-Jibreen (Al-Nassr); Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Mohammed Kanno, Abdullah Otayf (Al-Hilal), Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Abdulwahab Jaafar, Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab), Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi, Salman Al-Moasher (Al-Ahli); Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi (Al-Ittifaq)

Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr); Mohannad Assiri (Al-Ahli); Mujahid Al Mania (Al-Hilal).


‘Trophies matter’- Jose Mourinho remains defiant ahead of United-Liverpool Premier League clash

Updated 35 min 50 sec ago
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‘Trophies matter’- Jose Mourinho remains defiant ahead of United-Liverpool Premier League clash

MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho says success is best measured in trophies as he prepares to take his injury-hit Manchester United squad to high-flying Liverpool on Sunday.
Liverpool are top of the Premier League before the weekend round of matches but have yet to win a trophy under the management of Jurgen Klopp, who has been in charge since October 2015.
The 18-times English champions have won just one prize in the past 12 years — the League Cup under Kenny Dalglish in 2012 — despite featuring in two European finals.
Mourinho won the Europa League and FA Cup in his first season at Old Trafford but ended last season empty-handed and his team are lagging 16 points behind Klopp’s side in this season’s title race.
“I think trophies matter, yeah,” said Mourinho. “I think it matters, especially when you have the potential to fight for trophies and when you clearly say the objective is to win the trophies.
“I think sometimes just to say it is not very intelligent. But when you have the potential you have nothing to hide.
“I don’t read much but I think they (Liverpool) have said that their objective is to win the Premier League,” he added.
Even though Klopp has yet to win silverware at Anfield, Mourinho acknowledges that the Liverpool manager has built a team in his own image, full of attacking intent.
By contrast, the United manager believes he is still a long way from having a team that reflects the way he wants to play.
“A football team is not just about spending the money,” said Mourinho. “A football team is a little bit like a house. A house is not just about buying your furniture. You have to do work on the house and when it’s ready you buy the furniture.
“You spend money on the best possible furniture and then you are ready to live in an amazing house.”
Mourinho faces taking a depleted squad to Anfield on Sunday, with several players battling to recover from the injuries that kept them out of Wednesday’s Champions League defeat in Valencia.
Defender Victor Lindelof and forward Alexis Sanchez will definitely miss the game as they continue to recover from hamstring injuries.
Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Diogo Dalot, Scott McTominay and Marcos Rojo will be assessed to ascertain whether they can return against Liverpool.
Goalkeeper David de Gea and midfielder Nemanja Matic, who were rested against Valencia, will return, but United’s manager remains unsure how many players he will have to choose from.
“In Valencia, only De Gea and Matic were available to play and didn’t travel by decision,” he said.
“Apart from that, the other players who didn’t travel were not fit to play in Valencia. All of them had injuries and they were not ready.
“All of them didn’t train yesterday again and today there will be a little introduction to training — I don’t want to say test — to see the answer, to see if we can increase it a little bit tomorrow to have them available for Sunday. I hope that some will be available but for sure some will not be.”