Insight: Key players in the RSL relegation battle

With the Roshn Saudi League season heading into the final stretch, naturally attention turns as much to the bottom half of the table as it does the top.

Only seven points separate 17th and 10th place in the standings, meaning that the closing run of 10 games will be crucial for teams looking to pull away from the relegation zone to safety.

Here we take a look at five players who should play a pivotal role in keeping their clubs in the division.

Toze - Al Hazem

Bottom of the league, nine points from safety, it’s safe to say Al Hazem face an uphill battle to retain their RSL status. However, in Portuguese playmaker Toze, the side from Ar Rass possess a player who could potentially pull them out of the fire.

The former FC Porto man was handed the captain’s armband this season and has since been leading by example, providing the most goals (seven) and assists (five) for his team. That also included a clinical strike away at Al Nassr in Matchweek 22 to hand Al Hazem a share of the spoils in a wild 4-4 draw.

It might be looking bleak right now, but in Toze, Al Hazem have a player more than capable of inspiring a great escape. 

Grzegorz Krychowiak - Abha

The goalscoring exploits of the former Poland international is one of the key reasons that Pitso Mosimane’s side are now just three points from safety.

The South African tactician has elected to push Krychowiak further forward in attack, a move that has certainly helped yield important results. That was shown perfectly in Matchweek 22, when the 34-year-old came up with both goals in a 2-0 win over relegation rivals Al Tai.

Abha are set for another relegation “six-pointer” away to Al Riyadh next weekend, and will be hoping for Krychowiak, with six goals thus far, to step up yet again.

Bernard Mensah - Al Tai

The Ghanaian has been quietly cultivating a reputation as one of the players of the season in the RSL, and his 11 goals have been almost singlehandedly keeping Al Tai out of the relegation zone. For now, the side from Ha’il make up the last club in relegation zone, in 16th, but sit two points from safety.

Al Tai take on fellow strugglers Al Riyadh, Al Raed and Al Okhdood in their final 10 games of the season, with Mensah’s searing pace often utilised to devastating effect on the counter-attack this season. His performances, particularly in the aforementioned crunch games, will be crucial if Al Tai are to beat the drop.

Knowledge Musona - Al Riyadh

In their first-ever season in the RSL, Al Riyadh are loitering dangerously above the relegation zone, so are in desperate need of stringing together a run to pull away from trouble. With three goals in his past four RSL starts, could Zimbabwean international Musona be the difference-maker?

The former Al Tai forward has a useful knack lately of scoring important goals for his side – he has four this season - including vital second-half equalisers against Al Raed and Al Fayha.

Musona also has an eye for the spectacular and can conjure something almost from nothing (see his a long-distance free-kick against Al Raed in Matchweek 21). You feel that, if Al Riyadh are to pull away from trouble, it will be down to Musona’s ingenuity.

Leandre Tawamba - Al Okhdood

Al Okhdood made a dream start to 2024 as they ran out 3-2 winners against third-placed Al Ahli, with Tawamba netting the winner. Since then, the side from Narjan fell to three consecutive defeats and a draw, and thus are now perhaps looking nervously over their shoulders. Al Okhdood sit 14th, two points above the relegation zone.

A club legend at Al Taawoun, where he is the club's all-time top scorer, Tawamba has the joint-highest goal contributions in the Al Okhdood squad since joining in the summer, pitching in with five goals and two assists. With games coming up against the likes of Al Raed, Abha and a potential showdown in the final game of the season against Al Tai, the veteran forward is more than capable in grabbing a few more goals to pull his side clear of trouble.