Al Ettifaq vs Al Nassr
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr will look to start their 2023/24 Saudi Pro League campaign in style when they lock horns against Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq this Monday.
Prince Mohammad bin Fahd Stadium forms the backdrop for a highly anticipated clash between last season’s runners-up, Al-Nassr, and Al-Ettifaq on Monday evening.
After months of courting big-name European stars and signing them for eye-watering price tags and wages, the Saudi Pro League is back in action with more eyeballs than ever, signalling the advent of a season brimming with excitement, anticipation, and goals.
It all started with Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese global superstar moved to Al-Nassr in January, setting off what appears to be a trend. Many high-profile players have since followed in his footsteps, ditching top European leagues for the sunnier and wealthier climes of the Saudi Pro League, which has a fanatic, and vibrant fanbase already.
Anyway, Al-Nassr come into this game fresh off lifting the Arab Champions Cup, beating Al-Hilal 2-1 in a dramatic final at the weekend despite playing over 60 minutes with 10 men. And the man dominating the football headlines is once again Ronaldo.
Two goals from the Portuguese veteran turned the game on its head. And, despite being forced off the pitch before the end due to injury, the 38-year-old was able to join in with his teammates in the joyous post-match celebrations.
The visitors will now turn their attentions to the domestic circuit, where they will be looking to kickstart the new Pro League season on a positive note against Al-Ettifaq, who were not one of the clubs PIF took control of in June. But that has not stopped them from grabbing the headlines.
The Dammam-based outfit recently made the marquee appointment of former Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard as their new head coach. They secured a seventh-place finish in the league last season under Gerrard’s predecessor Antonio Cazorla in a 16-team Saudi top-flight, which has now been expanded to 18 teams for the new season.
In what was a largely inconsistent campaign, the Commandos finished 35 points adrift of the top spot and nine clear of the relegation zone. Under Gerrard, they will be aiming to improve, having made a fair few big-name captures themselves ahead of the new season.