Hellmann eyeing Al Hazem points to escape relegation

Al Riyadh manager Odair Hellmann has urged his players to continue their recent run of impressive results by earning three points against Roshn Saudi League bottom club Al Hazem that could go a long way to avoiding relegation.

Al Riyadh, two places and two points above the dreaded drop zone, travel to the Al Hazem Club Stadium in Ar Rass on Saturday for a crucial fixture in the relegation battle.

Since a hugely disappointing last-gasp loss to second-bottom Al Tai in mid-April, Al Riyadh have put together three vital results. Firstly, they defeated Jeddah giants Al Ahli 2-1, then Al Riyadh earned draws against Al Fateh and Al Taawoun - 2-2 and 0-0, respectively.

With three games to go, Brazilian Hellmann, brought into the club at the beginning of October, knows just how vital a win on Saturday could be to the club remaining in the kingdom's top flight.

“How many people in Saudi Arabia believed that Al Riyadh would take five points in the games against Al Ahli, Al Fateh and Al Taawoun?" Hellman said. "Anybody? Only me, the players, and this club.

“We cannot in this moment look for other teams too much. We need to concentrate on our job and not look too much at the other teams. We need to put points on the table and focus on our job. That’s so important. If you look too much at the other teams, you forget your job.

"We have prepared for this game with a strong mentality; to be tactically strong, and technically strong. We need to continue in the league. And if we continue like this, Al Riyadh will continue [in the league].”

The draw against Al Taawoun last week at the Prince Faial bin Fahd Stadium took Al Riyadh to 14th place in the 18-team league, one point above Abha. Al Okhdood have 28 points, as do Al Tai, while Al Hazem, with 20 points, have already been relegated.

“Sometimes you need to prepare the mentality of the players in these games more," Hellman said. "They need to be strong and control the situation and play a good game to get the victory. I don’t know how many points the team needs to continue in the league before the other games – 33, 34?

"I think that might be enough to continue. But we need to do our job in the last three games. In the last three games, we need to play together.”

Incredibly, the 0-0 draw with Al Taawoun was also Al Riyadh’s first clean sheet of 2024.

“It was very important because the team has conceded too many goals in the league," added Hellmann, assistant manager of the Brazilian gold-medal winning Olympic team of 2016. "Al Riyadh has made a strong attempt to stay in the league. We have shown organisation, fight, and done our best. We have heart.

"The target is clear: to continue in the league. We have 30 points but that’s not ‘congratulations’ yet. We still have work to do. For sure, I promise that Al Riyadh will fight until the last second to get this target.”

Al Riyadh may, however, be without Zimbabwean attacker Knowledge Musona in their relegation battle. The former Hoffenheim and Anderlecht player, who has four goals and two assists in 22 RSL appearances this season, was substituted after suffering an injury against Al Taawoun.

The match between Al Hazem and Al Riyadh at the Al Hazem Club Stadium kicks off on Saturday at 6pm.