Saudi Professional League: Revenge is on Al Hilal minds and an unlikely top-three clash

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Al Taawoun celebrate against Al Hilal (EPA).

Revenge is on the minds of Al Hilal for round five in the 2019/20 Saudi Professional League.

An abysmal end to April saw upstarts Al Taawoun inflict ruinous defeats in the top flight and King’s Cup. The sides meet again on Thursday at King Saud University Stadium.

Elsewhere, there is an unlikely top-three contest and Al Ittihad must stave off that sinking feeling. Here are the talking points:

TIME TO TERRORISE TAAWOUN?

These were four of the worst days in Hilal’s 61-year history.

An atomic bomb was taken to ambitions of claiming the double by Taawoun. The shameful 5-0 semi-final Cup humiliation brought a swift end to Zoran Mamic’s troubled reign, while caretaker Pericles Chamusca could not avert a 2-0 loss less than a week later that, basically, handed the top-flight crown to Riyadh rivals Al Nassr.

Fast forward to King Saud University Stadium this Thursday and the picture has changed.

Pedro Emanuel is gone at Taawoun after last term’s astounding Cup success and third-placed finish. Compatriot Paulo Sergio has experienced a solid start, albeit one hampered by fixture delays.

Their Cameroon centre forward Leandre Tawamba will also be desperate to get back among the goals.

Hilal are flying under their new boss Razvan Lucescu, pulverising Itti twice last week across two competitions. With much of the squad still in situ, an ominous fourth victory in five 2019/20 SPL fixtures, if attained, will taste extra sweet.

AN ATYPICAL TOP-THREE CLASH

Hilal’s chasing pack has an unfamiliar look.

Tucked in directly behind in the table are the SPL’s working definition of a steady hand, Al Faisaly, and free-wheeling debutants Al Adalah. These clubs meet at Al Majma’ah Sports City on Saturday in an intriguing clash.

Chamusca’s posting at Hilal has, seemingly, had no disruptive effect. That they’ve accrued eight points from only four goals scored speaks volume about how efficient they are.

Adalah, meanwhile, have rocketed in the goals through Senegalese midfielder Aliou Cisse and Madagascar forward Carolus Andria. Embrace this clash of styles, SPL fans.

TIGERS ALREADY IN A SCRAP

It’s been a worrying few weeks for Ittihad.

Their five-match winless run has seem them fall into the drop zone – albeit, with a game in hand – and exit the AFC Champions League at the hands of Hilal.

A full season back under Jose Luis Sierra’s care was meant to prevent another lengthy toil against relegation. Now comes an illustrative match with undefeated Al Shabab.

This result, and performance, will speak volumes about the months ahead.

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