Saudi Professional League: Talking points as Al Ahli shine amid strife and Herve Renard comes to fore

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(EPA).

Managerless Al Ahli Jeddah will be determined to keep confounding the uncertainty that surrounds them when round six of the 2019/20 Saudi Professional League kicks off.

Caretaker Saleh Al Mohammadi’s solid stewardship continued last week when champions Al Nassr were held to a goalless draw. This result sees the ‘Fortress of Trophies’ sitting in fourth place, ahead of Saturday’s trip to sinking Al Fayha.

Elsewhere in the top flight, a host of players will be aiming to impress Saudi Arabia boss Herve Renard prior to the international break and Fathi Al Jabal may reach the end of the road at bottom-placed Al Fateh.

CALM WITHIN THE AHLI CHAOS

It appears, from the outside, utterly remarkable that Ahli have managed to shed a widely respected tactician in Branko Ivankovic last month, weather a summer shirt-throwing controversy with star striker Omar Al Somah and yet still sit level on points with the holders.

This is where ample credit must be given to stand-in Al Mohammadi. Their former player and youth-team coach instantly ditched reputed troublemakers Hussein Abdulghani and Saeed Al Mowalad for September 21’s debut 2-0 win at struggling Al Fateh.

This new unity was key during a stalemate with Nassr that they dominated, pumping in 14 attempts to their exalted visitors’ six.

Swat aside Fayha and rumours Al Mohammadi is set to stay until season’s end may become official during this month’s stoppage.

CATCHING RENARD’S EYE

A select group of domestic players will soon answer their country’s call for this month’s World Cup 2022 qualifying double header against Singapore and Palestine.

An intriguing selection awaits from Renard after an underwhelming first spell at the helm last month that included an embarrassing 2-2 competitive opener with minnows Yemen.

The ex-Morocco boss has been busy in the interim scouting matches.

Ettifaq duo Fawaz Al Torais and Ali Hazazi have a showcase against giants Al Hilal this weekend, while if Al Hazem midfielder Hassan Al Habaib can add to his joint-league high three assists versus Al Ittihad then a recall should follow. More goals for Abdullah Al Hamdan, 20, for Al Shabab against promoted Al Adalah may cement his status as the long-awaited new No9.

AL JABAL’S LAST STAND?

2019/20 has, frankly been a living nightmare for Al Jabal and Fateh.

Zero points and a goal difference of minus seven have been recorded from their five torrid fixtures. This has ensured intense scrutiny and conjecture about the employment of their Tunisian coach.

Al Jabal, 56, will forever remain a club icon after 2012/13’s staggering SPL title victory. Past achievements, however, cannot insulate him from the terminal impact of potential defeat versus third-bottom Al Raed.

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