Al-Hilal backed to have super season by ex-boss Safet Susic

The victory over Akhisarspor was Al-Hilal's third victory of their pre-season camp in Austria. Al-Hilal
Updated 31 July 2018
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Al-Hilal backed to have super season by ex-boss Safet Susic

  • Former boss Susic says the Riyadh giants have a 'European' style
  • Al-Hilal face Serie A side Udinese in their last match of the Austria training camp

Al-Hilal have been praised as being “European” as the Riyadh giants continue to impress in their pre-season preparations.
Jorge Jesus’ side have been enjoying an Austrian training camp ahead of the forthcoming Saudi Pro League season, facing several European sides as they bid not only to defend their title but also to set themselves up for a another crack at winning the Asian Champions League, which they were dumped out of earlier this year. That failure led to the sacking of Ramon Diaz as coach, but in Austria that has all been forgotten.
Al-Hilal beat Turkish side Akhisarspor 3-1 thanks to goals from Brazilian attacking midfielder Carlos Eduardo, Syrian star Omar Khribin and veteran midfielder Mohammad Al-Shalhoub.
And such was the impressive nature of the victory that Akhisarspor’s coach, Safet Susic, hailed the Saudi Arabian champions as almost “European” in their style of play.
“Al-Hilal were impressive and although this was a pre-season friendly and we shouldn’t think about it too much, they played well,” Susic said.
“We saw Saudi Arabia at the World Cup and this was a good test for us.”
Susic, 63, not only led Bosnia-Herzegovina to the 2010 World Cup but also enjoyed a short spell in charge of Al-Hilal in 2001. He declared that the current version has improved in many ways.
“They move the ball around quickly and there are always players who want the ball and are available in space,” he said.
“They have many technically gifted players and the attackers look very good.”
After winning last season’s title, the signs are promising for the Riyadh club, with new coach Jesus trying to input a more creative style of play. The former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss took the reins in June and has been active on the training pitch in Austria.
Sunday’s victory over the Turkish team was a comfortable one and follows victories over Rapid Lienz of Austria and Slovenia’s NK Ralcer Radomlje. The one setback was last week’s loss at the hands of German club Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Susic pinpointed Carlos Eduardo as the team’s creative fulcrum, and predicted a bright future for the Brazilian.
“He is obviously an excellent player and made things happen for them. He would be an asset for many teams in Europe,” he said.
With Eduardo and star striker Khribin returning from serious injury, there is a spring in the step of Al-Hilal, although doubts remain over the fitness of playmaker Nawaf Al-Abed, who is still struggling to recover from a long-standing groin injury.
New signing Andre Carillo started his second game for his new club before the Peruvian international was withdrawn from the action midway through the second half.
“He is still getting used to his new team and his new teammates,” Al-Hilal coach Jesus said.
“We are improving and making progress but we know that there is a lot of work to do in the time before the new season and we are working hard and improving.”
With Al-Abed’s injury, there have been reports in the region that United Arab Emirates star Omar Abdulrahman could be about to strengthen the squad of the two-time Asian champions.
The 2016 Asian Player of the Year has been the subject of major speculation over his future as the 26 year-old’s contract with Al-Ain nears its end.
The playmaker has been in Spain to discuss offers from La Liga clubs such as Leganes and Getafe, but according to reports the star could be set for a year-long loan at Al-Hilal before returning to Al-Ain.
When contacted by Arab News, Al-Hilal officials remained tight-lipped over the possibility of signing West Asia’s biggest star. Abdulrahman, however did little to quell speculation in an interview with Arabic YouTube late last week.
“I reached Al-Ain and I’ve been blessed since then,” said the Emirati international. “Al-Ain was the only one. And there will never be any other club for me here in the UAE.”
Al-Hilal complete their European camp against Udinese of Serie A tomorrow.


A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

Updated 20 March 2019
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A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

  • Can the Whites and Green Falcons find the back of the net more often?
  • Both teams need to set the tone ahead of the important World Cup qualifiers.

LONDON: Ahead of Thursday’s friendly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia Arab News looks at the main priorities for both sides as they embark on their new eras after the Asian Cup and ahead of the all-important the World Cup qualifiers.

FIND THOSE SCORING BOOTS

For the past 18 months both sides have struggled for goals. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the UAE scored just 10 goals in the past nine matches — five of those coming against lowly Kyrgyzstan and India — and likewise the Green Falcons have also struggled to find the back of the net. Heading toward the World Cup qualifiers, now is the time to find those scoring boots.

PUT ON A SHOW

Both sides have technically gifted players, can keep the ball and at times trouble opposition defenses. But both have been too defensive, too safety-first and, at times, too dull. Football is supposed to be entertainment, and the friendlies ahead of the World Cup qualifiers might be no bad time to throw caution to the wind and see what the players can do in the final third.

SET THE TONE

As the modern cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. With all the sackings and player movements, it is not hard to see the kernel of truth in that overused saying. But, conversely, time can also move very fast in the “Beautiful Game.” It may be six months before the World Cup qualifiers begin, but it will be September before the coaches and players know it. Set the tone and tactics now and triumphs will be easier to come by then and, more importantly, further into the future.