Football Features

Al Hilal team preview: The AFC Champions League’s most successful side gear up for another Club World Cup

By Ben Green

Al Hilal team preview: The AFC Champions League's most successful side gear up for another Club World Cup

Published: 18:11, 2 February 2022 | Updated: 17:34, 7 February 2022

Al Hilal have once again entered the Club World Cup as winners of the AFC Champions League and they will be looking to improve upon their fourth-placed finish the last time they made the tournament.

The Saudi Arabian side last appeared in 2019 and commendably secured fourth in a tournament won by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Managed by former Romania head coach Razvan Lucescu at the time, Al-Za’eem just came up short in the third-place play-off to Monterrey in Doha.

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Five things to know about Al Hilal…

  • Al Hilal are the most successful club in AFC Champions League history (four) — the competition that grants you access to the Club World Cup.
  • They are currently managed by Leonardo Jardim, who famously won the Ligue 1 title with Monaco in 2016/17, boasting a side containing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho.
  • They’ve had a host of household names rock up in Riyadh, including Brazilian legends Mario Zagallo and Roberto Rivelino, Andrey Kanchelskis, Sebastian Giovinco, Bafetimbi Gomis, Jonathan Soriano and Ali Al-Habsi.
  • Al Hilal are the most-decorated side in Saudi Arabia, winning a record 17 Professional League trophies, including four of the previous five.
  • They currently have Odion Ighalo, Moussa Marega and Andre Carrillo on the books.

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Odion Ighalo’s late arrival strengthens Jardim’s attack

Al Hilal signed Odion Ighalo only last week, with the Nigeria international transferring across from Al Shabab after only one year at the Prince Khalid bin Sultan Stadium, and he is expected to come straight into the team for this tournament following Bafetimbi Gomis’ recent departure.

Ighalo was in formidable form for Al Shabab during his short-lived existence there, and will be looking to translate that form over to another Riyadh-based side — a potential partnership with former Porto marksman Moussa Marega looks absolutely tantalising on paper.

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A date with Chelsea?

As winners of the AFC Champions League, Al Hilal enter the second round of the competition and await one of Al Jazira — who qualified as the host nation’s league champions — or Tahitian outfit AS Pirae, who were drafted in at the last-minute after Auckland City pulled out.

Their bout is scheduled for Sunday, and if they can pull off a triumph, Chelsea lie in wait in the semi-finals. Of course, Jardim has a number of players at his disposal who have previous against the Blues, not least Ighalo who has one goal in six against them, and Marega, who tussled with Thomas Tuchel’s men in last season’s Champions League for Porto.

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