State of Play: The fight for Roshn Saudi League survival

The relegation race is tightening in the Roshn Saudi League as we head into the penultimate round of fixtures. Realistically, as bottom side Al Hazem’s fate is already sealed, four teams are fighting for survival, with Abha, Al Okhdood, Al Tai and Al Riyadh separated by two points towards the foot of the table, and while Al Raed are mathematically still not safe, it would take a comprehensive list of results working against them if they are to face a first-ever relegation.

Matchweek 33 therefore throws up some crunch games for that particular quartet, as they try to jostle for position ahead of the final Matchweek of the 2023-24 campaign.

Al Riyadh – 14th (31 points)

Al Riyadh are undefeated in their past five RSL matches but will have a real challenge on their hands in Matchweek 33 in their derby clash against Al Nassr at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium. Odair Hellmann’s side have turned a corner in recent weeks, however, having drawn their past three games, at least one victory could have pulled them out of the relegation picture.

Saleh Al Abbas is Al Riyadh's top scorer this season with eight goals, and that will be needed against an Al Nassr team who have won eight of their past nine RSL outings.

Surely, though, Al Riyadh will not want it all to go down to the final day, when they travel to 11th-placed Al Khaleej.

Al Tai – 15th (31 points)

Confidence will be high in the Al Tai camp after Bernard Mensah inspired them to a vital 3-1 win against Al Fateh last time out. The result helped push the Ha’il side out of the drop zone, thanks in no small part to the rowdy backing from their fans at the Prince Abdulaziz bin Musa'ed Stadium.

Former Al Ettifaq boss Leonardo Ramos has masterminded the upturn in form – Al Tai have tasted defeated in only one of their past five RSL matches - but will be realistic of his side's chances at the newly crowned RSL champions Al Hilal in Matchweek 33.

A more realistic chance of points will be on the final day, when Al Tai face fellow strugglers Al Okhdood in what now looks like a straight shootout for RSL survival.

Al Okhdood – 16th (29 points)

With Al Riyadh and Al Tai up against the top two, Al Okhdood will be seeking to take advantage on Thursday as they host an out-of-sorts Al Wehda side.

The Najran club were left a little frustrated last weekend as they conceded a late equaliser against the 10 men of Al Ettifaq. However, in Noureddine Ben Zekri, Al Okhdood have a savvy tactician who has been dubbed as a “survival specialist” after helping Damac, Al Fayha and Al Raed to safety in his previous stints in the Kingdom.

The Algerian will be certainly confident of his team getting a result against an Al Wehda side that have tasted victory only once in their past seven RSL outings.

Get something from that, and if Al Tai fail to pick up anything from Al Hilal, then they make the trip to Ha’ii on the concluding matchweek with it all to play for.

Abha – 17th (29 points)

Pitso Mosimane’s men might sit second from bottom but are just two points from safety. Midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak has played a crucial role at times this season, and the former Poland international needs one final push to help his side to safety.

The first order of business for manager Mosimane will be for his side to get that 5-1 defeat to Al Ahli in Matchweek 32 out of their system. Abha have an impressive record on home turf, losing only once in their past eight matches at the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Stadium in the RSL.

That record could be crucial as they host Al Khaleej on Thursday, a team who are firmly in the midtable shuffle of the RSL standings, before they travel to already-down Al Hazem on the final day.

Rest assured, should Abha go into that deciding matchweek with survival still an option, they will fancy their chances of a great escape.