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.


Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

Updated 20 April 2019
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Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

  • Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor
  • Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting

ORLANDO, Florida: Pascal Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and the Toronto Raptors held off the Orlando Magic 98-93 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting. Leonard had 10 rebounds, Danny Green had 13 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assist.
Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.
The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.
That being said, they went down swinging.
Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.
Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, and were doomed shortly afterward. Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game again, and that closed the scoring.
Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.
Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half.
Orlando got within one on three occasions in the first half, but never got the lead in the opening 24 minutes. Toronto took a 48-45 lead into the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.
He took off from the Magic logo and released the ball with about a half-second remaining, it hitting the square on the backboard perfectly and dropping through. Ross never broke stride, watching the ball’s flight as he ran and kept going through the tunnel leading to the Magic locker room.
TIP-INS
Raptors: Toronto had lost four consecutive Game 3s. ... Patrick McCaw (sprained right thumb) was active, but did not play. ... The Raptors are 6-1 in their last seven road games this season. ... Siakam has 73 points and 30 rebounds in the series.
Magic: Among the former Orlando players in the building were Tracy McGrady, Jameer Nelson and Horace Grant. ... Orlando missed three shots at the rim in one third-quarter possession. Vucevic missed at the rim, and Gordon couldn’t convert on two putback tries. ... Attendance was 19,367, the second-most in the Amway Center’s nine-season history.
GOVERNOR SPEAKS
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s first lady Casey DeSantis were in attendance and received Magic “46” jerseys — a nod to his being the 46th governor of the Sunshine State. The governor and Magic CEO Alex Martins spoke pregame about the hope for Orlando to get another All-Star Game soon, though all through 2022 has already been awarded to other Eastern Conference cities — and Milwaukee, another East city, has expressed interest in 2023.
UP NEXT
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.