In their first match of 2024, Saudi Pro League leaders Al-Hilal will host MLS upstarts Inter Miami in Riyadh for a Riyadh Season Cup fixture on Monday night.
As attendances and player dissatisfaction threaten to further damage the image of the lucrative Saudi Pro League, Al-Hilal have secured an unbeaten record in the first half of the season, with only two draws alongside their victories.
They currently hold a seven-point lead over Al-Nassr in first place.
Al-Hilal also have their sights set on the King’s Cup and AFC Champions League, with their next opponent being Iran’s Sepahan in the latter competition in February.
Aside from their league success, Al-Hilal has performed well in their Champions League group and reached the semi-finals of the King’s Cup without conceding a goal.
Inter Miami has struggled to secure victories in recent months, with their winless streak dating back to September 21. They finished second from bottom in the Eastern Conference standings and failed to qualify for the post-season.
Before the start of the 2024 MLS season, Inter Miami has several exhibition games scheduled, including matches against Al-Nassr, Vissel Kobe, Newell’s Old Boys, and a Hong Kong XI.
Their priority is to break their winless streak in their upcoming match against Al-Hilal.
Al-Hilal will be without Brazilian attacker Neymar due to a cruciate ligament injury. Other players, such as Bono, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Khadim Diaw, are unavailable due to their involvement in international tournaments.
However, left-back Renan Lodi is expected to make his debut, and Malcom should recover from a leg injury.
Inter Miami does not have any players absent due to the Africa Cup of Nations or Asian Cup. Their squad includes Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, and Luis Suarez.
Possible Starting Lineups
Al-Mufarrij, Jahfali, Al-Shahrani, Lodi;
Al-Juwayr, Neves, Milinkovic-Savic;
Malcolm, Mitrovic, Michael
Inter Miami: (5-3-2)
Yedlin, Kryvtsov, Aviles, McVey, Allen;
Gressel, Ruiz, Busquets;
Prediction: Al-Hilal 3-1 Inter Miami
Despite some defensive absences, Al-Hilal’s strong midfield and attack should give them an advantage over Inter Miami. The lack of match practice for the latter may affect their performance.