Preview: Al Riyadh vs. Al Ittihad – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Saudi Pro League clash between Al Riyadh and Al Ittihad, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Al Ittihad will be looking to continue their positive start to the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season this weekend when they travel to Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium to take on Al Riyadh on Thursday evening.

The defending champions come into this match having already taken the lead in the league standings, while the visitors have also looked good in their return to the top flight, currently in eighth place.

Match preview

Al-Ittihad new signing Karim Benzema waves to fans as he holds the Ballon d'Or trophy during his presentation on June 7, 2023© Reuters

After finishing last season in fourth place in the First Division League, Al Riyadh were the lucky beneficiary of the top flight being increased to 18 sides, as they were granted promotion along with Al Ahli and Al Hazm.

They managed 63 points in their 34 games last season and posted a record of 19 wins, six draws and nine losses, scoring 55 goals and conceding 37 in that time.

So far, the hosts have made the most of the opportunity and are one of just eight sides in the league that have avoided defeat in their first two matches, drawing 2-2 against Damak last week and beating Al Wehda 1-0 on the opening day.

Saleh Al Abbas got his side off to a flyer last week with two goals in the first half, but they found their lead halved before the hour mark and were denied a second consecutive win by a 100th-minute goal from Abdullah Al Ammar deep in stoppage time.

Still, four points in their first two matches is a definite positive outcome for Yannick Ferrera, who will see it as a good platform to build for the rest of the season, though he will know that his side are in for a very tough afternoon in this one.

Meanwhile, the league champions have begun their title defence very strongly and secured a second consecutive win last week over Al Tai, which followed a 3-0 win over Al Raed in their opening league match of the campaign.

Abderrazak Hamdallah found the back of the net for the second consecutive game last weekend before Saleh Al Amri doubled their advantage late on to take them to the top of the standings in the early stages, though Al Ahli Saudi and Al Ittifaq are still right on their heels.

Al Ittihad brought a 12-year wait to an end by winning the Pro League last season with a 13-point margin and took the crown away from Al Hilal, who had held the title for the previous three seasons.

The last time these sides met was back in 2019 in the King’s Cup, which Al Itthiad won 4-0, and that was also the fifth consecutive match they scored four goals against this opponent dating back to November 2004.

Al Riyadh Saudi Pro League form:

Al Ittihad Saudi Pro League form:

Al Ittihad form (all competitions):

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Team News

Al Ittihad coach Nuno Espirito Santo on January 26, 2023© Reuters

Ferrera has kept the same starting 11 so far but tinkered with the formation, going from a 4-4-2 in the first match of the season to a 3-4-3 last week, and he will likely revert to the former again in this one.

Al Abbas’s brace in the last match should be enough to see him keep his place in the starting 11, and he will likely partner with new signing Knowledge Musona, who opened his account for his new team the previous week.

Fabinho and N’Golo Kante have started both league games in defensive midfield for the visitors, and considering they have kept two clean sheets, we will likely see them resume duty in the engine room again.

Further upfield, Karim Benzema will be hoping to get his first league goal for his new side, while Hamdallah’s good form could mean that Jota will have to settle for a place on the bench for a second week.

Al Riyadh possible starting lineup:
Campana; Alnwaiqi, Asiri, Arslanagic, Tosca; Al Zaqan, Ndong, Toure, Al Khaibari; Al Abbas, Musona

Al Ittihad possible starting lineup:
Grohe; Bamsaud, Sharahili, Hawsawi, Al Shanqeeti; Kante, Fabinho; Coronado, Romarinho, Hamdallah; Benzema

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We say: Al Riyadh 0-3 Al Ittihad

It is difficult to see anything but an away win here. The reigning champions have been fantastic this season, particularly in defence, and we fancy they will keep a third consecutive clean sheet in this one.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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