Juan Antonio Pizzi names Saudi Arabia squad for Riyadh training camp

Juan Antonio Pizzi has named his first Saudi Arabia squad five months out from the World Cup
Updated 20 January 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi names Saudi Arabia squad for Riyadh training camp

DUBAI: Juan Antonio Pizzi has announced his 25-man squad for the first stage of Saudi Arabia’s preparations for the World Cup. The players will gather in Riyadh on Sunday for a one-week training camp where the Green Falcons manager will get to know his players. 
The camp is the first step of a five-stage program announced by Pizzi earlier this month, designed to help the side hit top form by the time they kick-off their World Cup campaign on Jun. 14 against the hosts Russia.
Nine players from league leaders Al-Hilal were drafted into the squad, including a first call-up for 22-year old Mojahed Al-Mania. The young striker’s inclusion raised a few eyebrows as he has only completed 61 minutes in the league for Al-Hilal this season. Al-Mania was also part of the Saudi Arabia U23 squad that finished bottom of their group at the AFC U23 Championship earlier this month.
Discussing this stage of preparations, Pizzi had indicated in an earlier press conference, that the squad will be largely drawn from the players who got the Green Falcons to the Russian showpiece. Indeed, 22 out of the 25 players called up on Saturday had featured at some point during the qualifying campaign. The exceptions being Al-Munia, goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah, who was the third-choice goalkeeper throughout the qualifiers, in addition to Al-Hilal midfielder Mohamed Kanno.
Pizzi, however, had insisted that this initial squad, his first since taking over since replacing Edgardo Bauza at the helm in November, is by no means the one most likely to travel to Moscow next summer.
“The first stage is important, but this doesn’t mean that only players who were involved at this stage will be considered for the World Cup. No, players from the Gulf Cup squad and the U23 Asian Championships are also under consideration,” said the 49-year-old.
The team will not play any friendly matches during the seven days gathering. Instead, the focus will be on explaining the manager’s style and laying the groundwork for the remainder of the preparations period.
“The main objective of this stage is for myself and the coaching staff to know the players and for them to understand our style of work and our plans,” continued the former Chile boss.
“We don’t have a lot of time, so it is crucial that we all get to know and understand each other well.”
Elsewhere in the squad, there was a return to the national team set up for Al-Nassr striker Mohamed Al-Sahlawi, who had found himself out of favor with the previous manager after a lean spell in the league, despite being Saudi Arabia’s top goal scorer in the World Cup qualifiers.
Notable absences include Al-Hilal playmaker Nawaf Al-Abed who continues to recover from surgery in France following a groin injury sustained earlier this season. His club teammate Mohamed Al-Burayk misses out, despite establishing himself as one of the best right-backs in the country, and there was a similar surprise exclusion of left-back Abdulrahman Al-Obaid who has just completed a big money transfer from Al-Qadisiyah to Al-Nassr.

SAUD ARABIA SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al-Hilal), Waleed Abdullah (Al-Nassr), Yaser Al-Mosaileem and Mohamed Al-Owais (Al-Ahli).

DEFENDERS: Osama Hawsawi, Abdullah Al Zori and Yasir Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal); Motaz Hawsawi, Mohamed Al-Fateel and Mansour Al-Harbi (Al-Ahli); Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr) and Hassan Muath (Al-Fayha).

MIDFIELDERS: Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf, Mohammed Kanno and Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal); Abdulaziz Al-Jibreen and Yahya Al-Shehri (Al-Nassr); Hussain Al-Moqahwi, Salman Al-Moasher and Abdulfattah Assiri (Al-Ahli); Abdulmajeed Al Ruwaili (Al-Fayha) and Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al-Ittihad)

FORWARDS: Mohamed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr) and Mujahid Al-Munia (Al-Hilal)


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.