Which sides have what it takes to win the Saudi Pro League this season?

Al-Hilal won the title on the last day, pipping Al-Ahli to the post. (Al-Hilal)
Updated 30 August 2018
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Which sides have what it takes to win the Saudi Pro League this season?

LONDON: With the new Saudi Pro League season neraly upon us, here is how we think the Saudi Pro League season will unfold...

AL-HILAL

Last Season: 1st
Coach: Jorge Jesus
Major Signings: Omar Abdulrahman, Andre Carrillo, Alberto Botia.
Strengths: The defending champions have strengthened and not being in the AFC Champions League could prove a blessing in disguise. They have plenty of star power and goals in the team with a coach full of big-game experience.
Weaknesses: Not many — the coach may take a little time to get used to the league, the team is there to be shot at and the loss of Osama Hawsawi may take some getting used to. 
Key player: Abdullah Otayf — the holding midfielder does not make the headlines that others do but he makes the team tick. When he plays well Al-Hilal play well; he needs to stay fit.
Prediction: 1st The Champions have grown stronger and will be the team to beat.


 

AL-NASSR

Last Season: 3rd
Coach: Jose Daniel Carreno
Major signings: Ahmed Musa, Christian Ramos, Nordin Amrabat, Guiliano, Brad Jones.
Strengths: The coach has won the title before, the club has signed plenty of talent, especially going forward, to give options and has strength in depth.
Weaknesses: Had some defensive issues last season, may take time for new players to gel and there is increased pressure after big signings.
Key player: Christian Ramos — Peru’s World Cup central defender is a commanding presence and could be the perfect signing.
Prediction: 2nd have improved but probably still a little short on what is needed to become 
champions.


 

AL-AHLI

Last season: 2nd
Coach: Pablo Guese
Major signings: Alexis, Josef De Souza, Jose Manuel Jurado
Strengths: They have plenty of motivation after coming so close last season and there is not much to fix. Added experience and class in defense and midfield especially.
Weaknesses: They have lost a couple of influential players, such as Claudemir and Leonardo, and the coach has no experience outside of South America. 
Key player: Omar Somah — the Syrian star needs to keep banging in the goals.
Prediction: 3rd — have lost some players, may take a little time to gel.


 

AL-ITTIHAD

Last season: 9th
Coach: Ramon Diaz
Major signings: Matt 
Jurman, Aleksandar Pesic, Valdivia
Strengths: Despite a poor season last time, quality has been added. There is also a desire to improve. Coach Diaz did well at Al-Hilal and has strong knowledge of the league and huge desire to prove his former club wrong.
Weaknesses: They have lost much of their firepower from last season and may struggle to get the goals.
Key player: Fahad Al-Muwallad — The Saudi Arabia winger has returned from Spain and is ready to terrorize defenders again.
Prediction: 4th have been busy in the transfer market but that may not be enough to get them in the top three.


 

AL-FAISALY

Last Season: 6th
Coach: Mircea Rednik
Major signings: Andre Micael, Diego Calderon, Joseph Akpala.
Strengths: They are well-organized and hard-to-beat, Al-Faisaly got to the final of the King’s Cup and that experience will serve them well.
Weaknesses: They lack firepower and creativity and while coach Rednik has experience, it is all in Europe.  
Key player: Omar Abdulaziz — the midfielder brings experience and control to the team and will be crucial to the new coach. 
Prediction: 5th — they will need to turn some of those draws into wins in order to prosper.


 

ETTIFAQ

Last Season: 5th 
Coach: Leonardo Ramos
Major signings: Ramon Arias, Brahian Aleman,
Strengths: They should be a little more solid than last time with some quality additions from South America.
Weaknesses: The defense struggled last season and while Ramos is seen as a strong organizer of teams, it may not be enough.
Key player: Mohammed Al-Kwikbi — the wide midfielder just missed out on the World Cup, but at 23 still has time to show what he can do.
Prediction: 6th Not quite got the quality to challenge for the top three.


Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 20 February 2019
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Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.