Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season in the Saudi Arabian league looks set to end without winning the championship. Rather, it is Odion Ighalo’s Al Hilal that is set to wear the crown.

Al Hilal defender Mohammed Al-Breik says the Saudi side have no concerns that fatigue could derail their quest for a record-extending fifth Asian Champions League crown when they host Urawa Red Diamonds in the first leg of the final on Saturday.

Al Hilal, who won their fourth Asian crown in 2021, go into the game at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium showing signs that a packed season is taking its toll.

They beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr 2-0 before sealing a 1-0 extra-time victory over league leaders Al Ittihad in the King’s Cup in their last two games, but those wins ended an inconsistent run with many players showing signs of tiredness.

Despite appearances at last year’s World Cup and the team’s participation in February’s Club World Cup, the Al Hilal squad were taking the schedule in their stride, said Al-Breik.

“We’re used to playing an intense schedule, we are used to doing this every season,” the Saudi international told Reuters

“Fatigue is not a problem. We know our obligations, how to take care of ourselves and we always do our best to recover.

“We might not have been at our best when we had a lot of games one after the other, but once all our injured players returned we showed the real face of Al Hilal against Al Nassr and Al Ittihad.”

A total of 12 Al Hilal players, including Al-Breik, were involved in Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Qatar, with 10 of them on the pitch for their stunning win over Argentina in the group stage.

“Our experience is going to help,” says Al-Breik. “But we’re facing an opponent who is going to be aggressive and who are going to make things difficult.

“This will my third experience of playing in a final against Urawa Reds and we know they won’t make things easy but I hope we can succeed.”

Al Hilal won the most recent encounter between the clubs in the 2019 Asian Champions League final, avenging a defeat at the hands of the Japanese outfit two years earlier.

After Saturday’s first leg, the teams meet again in Japan seven days later at Saitama Stadium for the return fixture.

Finals during the pandemic were played on a single-game basis but with travel back to normal this edition sees the return of the home-and-away format.

Al-Breik said Al Hilal’s demanding supporters will push their team to success.

“Our fans are always wanting everything,” he says. “They are our motor, our driver to achieve our goals. They have always been like this and it’s thanks to them that we’re always on top.”


Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here