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