Al-Nassr will continue their title challenge when they make a short trip to the Al-Shabab Club Stadium to take on local rivals Al-Shabab on Sunday afternoon.

Al-Shabab will be looking for a stronger start to the second half of the season after finishing 2023 in a bit of a slump, winning only one of their final seven games while losing three and drawing three ahead of the game against Al-Nassr.

However, the six-time champions 1-0 win over Damak last week puts them in tenth place and clear of the relegation zone, with January arrival Ivan Rakitic scoring his debut for his new employers in the final ten minutes of the match following Sanousi Al Hawsawi’s sending off.

It was also a winning start for coach Vitor Pereira, as the former Porto boss, who coached Al-Ahli a decade ago, was appointed earlier this month. He will be hoping that the revival continues against local rivals Al-Nassr here.

The Knights of Najd, meanwhile, booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday with a 3-0 aggregate victory over fellow Saudi Pro League side Al-Fayha.

After a 1-0 win away from home in last week’s first leg, thanks to a late Cristiano Ronaldo goal, they moved a step closer to their first-ever continental title with a comfortable 2-0 home victory in the second meeting.

They have been in impressive form in the last couple of matches, winning three matches in a row after losing the Riyadh Cup to Al-Hilal. They currently sit in second place in the league, but if they are to win the title, they must finish the season on a high note as they are still seven points adrift of leaders Al-Hilal.

Team News & Tactics


Al Shabab suffered a huge setback during the AFC Asian Cup, with first-team shot-stopper Kim Seung-gyu damaging his anterior cruciate ligament during the group stages, ruling him out of the competition and probably the rest of the season.

Ivan Rakitic joined the Riyadh club from Sevilla at the end of January to instantly become one of the stars of the Roshn Saudi League. And the former Barcelona star achieved instant hero status among Al-Shabab fans on Friday with a stunning goal to give his new team a 1-0 win at Damac.

It is fair to say that the Croat did not disappoint on his hype, as he oozed class and composure every time he took possession and always looked to make things happen. He will almost certainly retain his spot in the middle of the park alongside Colombian Gustavo Cuellar, looking to keep more possession and control.

Senegalese international Habib Diallo will hope to replace Brazilian striker Carlos after coming off the bench in the last match. Yannick Carrasco and Vitinho will continue to man the flanks.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Al-Absi; Sharari, Santos, Saiss; Bahbri, Cuellar, Rakitic, Al-Harbi; Vitinho, Carlos, Carrasco


Luis Castro will have to make do without the services of his first-choice custodian, David Ospina, who missed a significant portion of the first half of the season due to an elbow injury and is now set for another spell on the sidelines after injuring his thigh in a Riyadh Season Cup friendly against Al-Hilal last month.

With backup goalkeeper Nawaf Al-Aqidi currently serving a ban imposed by the Saudi Football Federation, and third-choice shot-stopper Raghed Al-Najjar ruled out for several weeks after picking up an injury in last week’s win over Al-Fateh, Waleed Abdullah will once again be called upon in between the sticks.

Marcelo Brozovic, and Abdullah Al-Khaibari will look to set the tempo in the engine room. Talismanic striker Ronaldo will spearhead the Al-Nassr attack against Al-Shabab as the central striker, flanked by the wing duo of Anderson Talisca and Sadio Mane, and supplied by creative Portuguese playmaker Otavio.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Abdullah; Lajami, Al-Amri, Laporte, Behich; Al-Khaibari, Brozovic; Talisca, Otavio, Mane; Ronaldo

Key Stats

  • Al-Nassr are unbeaten in the last three matches.
  • Al-Shabab are without a win against Al-Nassr in the last six matches.
  • In the current season, these two teams have faced each other twice in the Cup and the League. On both occasions, Al-Nassr emerged victorious with a combined scoreline of 9-2.
  • Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo has found the back of the net in the last three consecutive matches.

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

Embed from Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo once again made all the difference for Al-Nassr, as he scored their second goal of the evening to give them a 3-0 aggregate win over Al-Fayha. The Portuguese superstar has now produced 27 goals and 11 assists in 28 matches in all competitions in 2023/24 and currently leads the goal-scorer charts in the league, two ahead of Aleksandar Mitrovic.


Al-Shabab 1-2 Al-Nassr

Al-Shabab will be confident after returning from the winter break with a 1-0 win over ten-man Damac. But Al-Nassr will be a whole different challenge altogether. The Knights of Najd have put on three very dominating performances since returning from the international break and are the clear favourites to bag all three points in this match.

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