Positive results boost Pitso's battling Abha, but they face Ronaldo's ...

16 days ago
Al Nassr

Pitso Mosimane's Abha Club drew 1-1 away against Al Riyadh on Saturday to continue a string of recent positive results in their quest for Saudi Pro League (SPL) survival, but they next face Cristiano Ronaldo's second-placed Al-Nassr on Tuesday night.

Abha host Al-Nassr at their Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Sports City Stadium in the 1-million population Abha, capital of the mountainous Asir region (the city sits at an altitude of 2,270m above sea level, 520m higher than Johannesburg's 1,750m) in southwest Saudi Arabia.

At 39, Ronaldo's skills remain formidable in the more modest surrounds of the SPL. He has scored 33 goals in 34 league and cup games in 2023-24 and 47 in 53 games in total since signing for the Saudi club in January 2023. The Portugal and former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus great helped steer Al-Nassr to the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup title.

The impressive statistics have not helped them to the league title, though, where Al-Nassr ended second to Al-Ittihad by five points in 2022-23 and are 12 points behind Al-Hilal this campaign.

With a squad also boasting Sadio Mané (13 goals in 35 league and cup games this season), Al-Nassr will look for a win against Abha to restore their fading league title hopes with nine matches to go.

It will be a tough match for Mosimane’s club, who also have nine games left, to earn a result from, and their recent positive trend might have to take a pause on Tuesday night.

When Mosimane and his South African technical staff joined Abha on January 11, they were in 17th position on 14 points in the 18-team league, with four wins and two draws from 19 games and the worst goal difference of -30.

Abha had not won in seven games, six of those defeats. In six matches Mosimane has steered them to two wins, two draws and two defeats, accumulating eight points.

The club remain in the relegation zone and are also in second-last place but are level on 22 points with third-last Al Tai, two behind 15th-placed Al Akhdoud and three behind Al Riyadh in 15th position and on a positive trajectory in terms of results.

That trajectory might not continue against Al-Nassr, where Mosimane's team would probably be happy with a point at home though they would love to inflict a fifth defeat on Ronaldo's team.

Then eight huge fixtures remain in the relegation battle.

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