Five things you need to know ahead of the Saudi Pro League’s Round 25

Five things you need to know ahead of the Saudi Pro League’s Round 25
The drama at the top of the table may sometimes divert attention away from the action at the bottom end of the league. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 August 2020

Five things you need to know ahead of the Saudi Pro League’s Round 25

Five things you need to know ahead of the Saudi Pro League’s Round 25
  • As we approach the start of Round 25 tomorrow afternoon, we take a close look at the top five things SPL fans needs to know ahead of the round’s first match between Al-Fateh and Abha

With only six rounds remaining until the curtain closes on the longest-ever Saudi Pro League (SPL) season, there’s still plenty to play for on both ends of the table. The first two rounds since the restart did not disappoint and were filled with excitement and shock results, giving the fans the perfect dose of football after many months of absence.

As we approach the start of Round 25 tomorrow afternoon, we take a close look at the top five things SPL fans needs to know ahead of the round’s first match between Al-Fateh and Abha.
 
Winner takes all

Draws have not been an option so far with teams going all-out in the remaining rounds in the hope of achieving their objectives and bringing joy to their supporters at home. In the opening 16 matches since the restart, just one draw was recorded between Al-Raed and Al-Wehda. Meanwhile, fans watching from afar enjoyed a goalfest with 46 goals finding the back of the net, with an average of 2.8 goals per match.
 
Champions League qualification battle heating-up

The race to the Champions League spots has been the story of the season so far, with just five points separating eighth-placed Ettifaq and fourth-placed Al-Wehda as things stand. Al-Ahli’s back-to-back wins strengthened their hopes of securing their position in the top four. Meanwhile, Makkah-side Al-Wehda have struggled lately with just one point from a possible six since the restart.

Two massive showdowns will take place in Round 25 when Al-Ahli visit Al-Majmaah to face off Al-Faisaly. The Jeddah giants will be hoping to make it three out of three. Meanwhile, Al-Faisaly will be eyeing the sought-after fourth position with just two points separating them from it. Al-Nassr will play host to Al-Wehda as the Riyadh team will be aiming to continue its championship push on leaders Al-Hilal. Jose Daniel Carreno’s men will be hoping to find their winning ways with their first three points since the restart.
 
Fight for survival continues

The drama at the top of the table may sometimes divert attention away from the action at the bottom end of the league, but that’s certainly not the case in the 19/20 campaign. SPL debutants Damac and Al-Adalah are desperate for a renewed season in the top flight, and they’ve both showed a strong will to do so by recording wins in Round 24.

With 18 points left to play for till the end of the campaign, just seven points separate eleventh-placed Al-Fayha with Al-Adalah at the bottom of the table.

A North African battle for the top playmaker award

The top four players with the highest number of assists this season all share one thing in common — their North African heritage. Al-Faisaly’s Youssef El Jebli, who is Dutch with Moroccan origins, currently leads the way with 11 assists and 46 chances created to his name. Meanwhile, Al-Hazm’s Driss Fetouhi (Tunisia) comes in second with nine assists, Al-Nassr’s Nordin Amrabat (Morocco) and Abha’s Saad Beguir (Tunisia) follow with eight assists each.

Al-Hilal can cement their position at the top

With nine points separating Riyadh neighbors Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, Razvan Lucescu enter Round 25 with confidence as they take on 16th-placed Al-Adalah away from home. Despite the comfortable position that they find themselves in at this stage of the season, the league leaders have a challenging set of matches remaining until the end of the season with crucial trips to King Abdullah Sports City to face off in-form Al-Ahli and King Abdulaziz Sports City against Al-Wehda. They will also play host to Riyadh neighbors Al-Shabab, Champions League qualification hopefuls Al-Faisaly and 12th-placed Al-Hazm.

 Recognizing that fans are unable to attend games for the remaining eight rounds of fixtures, the SPL has developed its #OurLeagueIsBack campaign, which allows fans to share their support online, with videos and messages then being shown across stadiums on match days.

 


Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup
Arsenal’s midfielder Thomas Partey vies with Southampton’s midfielders Stuart Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse during Saturday’s match. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup
  • Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe

SOUTHAMPTON: Southampton dumped FA Cup holders Arsenal out of the competition on Saturday, winning 1-0 courtesy of a Gabriel own goal to set up a fifth-round meeting with Wolves.
The much-changed Gunners, who have won the competition a record 14 times, fell behind midway through the first half and could not find a way back.
Ralph Hasenhuttl fielded a strong side at St. Mary’s, with Danny Ings returning after a hamstring injury and a positive coronavirus test alongside former Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.
Mikel Arteta made seven changes from their 3-0 Premier League win against Newcastle on Monday.
Southampton, who had never previously beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup, were the brighter team in the first half in the winter sunshine on England’s south coast.
James Ward-Prowse rattled the crossbar from a swerving corner and Che Adams forced a fine save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Southampton got the reward their positive approach deserved in the 24th minute.
Mohamed Elneny gave away possession on the edge of his own box and the ball was worked to Kyle Walker-Peters on the right side of the Southampton attack.
The defender drilled it across the six-yard area and it was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel — the first time rejuvenated Arsenal had conceded since December 26 against Chelsea.
Ward-Prowse then struck a shot from distance that sailed wide and Ings hit a fierce volley that was blocked by Hector Bellerin.
Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe.
Arteta threw on forward Alexandre Lacazette to bolster his attack as Arsenal pinned Southampton back.
Lacazette was inches away from getting on the end of a teasing cross by fellow substitute Bukayo Saka as the minutes ticked away but Arsenal could not find an equalizer.
The exit will be a bitter disappointment for Arsenal, who have won the FA Cup four times in the past seven seasons — in sharp contrast to their toils in the Premier League.
Arteta’s side will return to Southampton for a league meeting on Tuesday, aiming to continue their fine recent run that has lifted them to 10th in the table.