Preview: Abha vs. Al-Hilal – prediction, team news, lineups – Sports Mole

Al-Hilal will be expecting to get their 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season off to a winning start when they head to Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Sports City Stadium to take on Abha on Monday evening.
The hosts come into this match following a 1-1 draw in a pre-season friendly against Iranian Pro League side Sepahan SC, while the visitors suffered a 2-1 defeat in the final of the Arab Club Champions Cup.

Al Hilal's Khalifah Al-Dawsari celebrates after Luciano Vietto scores their third goal on February 7, 2023© Reuters
Fair to say, Abha had a poor season last time out, finishing down in 12th place, which was three spots below where they finished the previous campaign.
Their poor performance last season saw them part ways with their previous manager, with Czeslaw Michniewicz taking up the role in June, though he was unable to make much of an impact, losing five of the seven matches that he took charge of.
Over the course of the season, Abha managed a total of 35 points, which was only two better than relegated side Al-Faisaly and recorded just nine wins in their 30 matches, along with eight draws and 13 losses.
However, while their overall record for the season was underwhelming, of the nine wins they managed last season, seven of them came on their home patch, which was the sixth-best tally of any side in the league.
Still, they come up here against a side that have been a consistent top-three finisher over the years and having lost to them in both league matches last season, it comes as little surprise to see them showing up as the 6/1 outsiders.
Meanwhile, despite finishing third, Al-Hilal would have seen last season as a major disappointment as they were forced to relinquish the league title after holding it for three consecutive seasons.
Jorge Jesus‘s side took 59 points in their 30 matches, which was eight less than their previous tally and recorded 17 wins, eight draws, and five losses, scoring 54 and conceding 29 in that time.
Al-Hilal were right in the mix for the title with Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr for the majority of the season, but a run of three matches without a win in April saw them fall behind, and they were unable to make up the deficit.
Since then, they have been involved in the Arab Club Champions Cup, and after losing their opening match to Al-Sadd, they bounced back with three wins over Wydad Casablanca, Al-Ittihad and Al-Shabab before losing to Al-Nassr and an extra-time winner from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Despite that disappointment, they have made a few big signings over the summer break, which they will be hoping will propel them back to the top of the league, and they will want to secure a solid win here to lay down a marker for the rest of the season.

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Al Hilal's Mohamed Kanno with Ali Al Boleahi after being shown a red card by referee Ivan Barton on February 4, 2023© Reuters
While Michniewicz’s side’s signings over the summer are not as high-profile as his opponents, they have brought in Francois Kamano from Lokomotiv Moscow, who will provide some pace down the left flank.
In defence, they have secured the services of Fabian Noguera from Argentine side Nacional, Mohammed Naji from Al-Batin and left-back Mohammed Al-Oufi from Al-Ittihad, and they all are in line to make their league debuts in this one.
With several new faces at the club, Jesus is a little spoilt for choice, but Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are likely to start this match in midfield for their new boss, with Malcom leading the line.
Former Chelsa and Napoli player Kalidou Koulibaly is also expected to make his league debut for the visitors, and he could be joined by Abdulrahman Al Obaid, who is returning from his loan spell at Al Ettifaq.

Abha possible starting lineup:
Epassy; Al Oufi, Noguera, Natiq, Al Qumayzi; Kamano, Krychowiak, Bguir, Al Sadi, Al Jumaiya; Caicedo
Al-Hilal possible starting lineup:
Al Owais; Abdulhamid, Koulibaly, Al Bulaihi, Al Obaid; Kanno, Neves, Michael, Milinkovic-Savic, Al Dawsari; Malcom

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The hosts are coming off the back of a poor season, and their pre-season friendly against Sepahan did little to inspire much confidence for their chances in this match. With several big-name players arriving over the summer for the visitors, we expect that they will get the season started with a win and a clean sheet in this one.

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







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