Who, where and when do Saudi Pro League clubs play in pre-season?

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With the 2023-24 season firmly in the rearview mirror, it is time for Saudi Pro League clubs to look ahead to the 2024-25 campaign, which begins in August. The Saudi sides tend to have their pre-season camps and fixtures overseas to avoid the searing summer temperatures in the Kingdom.

As well as honing form and fitness, pre-season tours and friendlies also offer Saudi Pro League clubs a fascinating opportunity to gauge their level against European rivals, with teams from Spain, Italy and Portugal set to be among the opponents this summer.

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Here, Al Arabiya English rounds up the highlights of Saudi Pro League clubs’ pre-season fixtures.

Al Hilal

The reigning Saudi champions toured Austria last summer - playing matches against Gorica, Wolfsberg, and Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv - and after claiming a record-extending 19th title in May, it is no surprise that coach Jorge Jesus is sticking with the same formula this time around.

Al Hilal’s squad returns to the Alpine nation for its pre-season camp, facing five friendlies - including two against Italian sides at the Sportarena Bad Kleinkirchheim in Zirkitzen.

First up is Austrian team Wiener Neustädter on July 19 before Qatari club Al Arabi and South African side Mamelodi Sundowns take on Hilal on July 22 and July 26 respectively. Then on July 29, Hilal will welcome Como, the club part-owned by ex-Arsenal and Barcelona stars Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, to Austria. Como, led by former Wales and Crystal Palace assistant coach Osian Roberts, will play in Serie A this season for the first time in 21 years after achieving promotion back to the Italian top-flight.

Then on August 3, Jesus’ team will face another Serie A team Udinese, which narrowly avoided relegation last season after appointing 2006 Italian World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro as coach with six matches remaining. Cannavaro took the club, which has twice played in the UEFA Champions League, to safety with three wins and two draws.

Fixtures: Al Hilal vs SC Wiener Neustädter (July 19); Al Hilal vs Al Arabi (July 22); Al Hilal vs Mamelodi Sundowns (July 26); Al Hilal vs Como (July 29); Al Hilal vs Udinese (August 3)

Al Nassr

After a frustrating season saw Al Nassr finish as runner-up to Al Hilal in both the Saudi Pro League and King’s Cup, coach Luis Castro will be determined to ensure his side is in peak condition as it tries to go a step further in 2024-25.

Al Nassr had a packed pre-season schedule in 2023 as the first summer with Cristiano Ronaldo in situ meant a host of clubs lined up to face the team from Riyadh. Matches in Portugal against the likes of Celta Vigo and Benfica were followed by a high-profile tour of Japan and encounters with PSG and Inter Milan.

This time, Al Nassr’s schedule looks likely to come together later, with just one pre-season friendly confirmed so far, against second-tier Portuguese side Maritimo in Funchal, Ronaldo’s hometown on the island of Madeira on July 19. Having only played in his final UEFA European Championship match for Portugal on July 5, Ronaldo seems unlikely to be involved, while fellow EURO 2024 players Marcelo Brozovic and Aymeric Laporte will almost certainly be missing too.

Nassr has confirmed that it will be based in Portugal’s Algarve region from July 7 to August 1, playing six matches in that time - though the opponents have not yet been revealed. Castro’s squad will then move to Marbella in Spain for two final fixtures before returning to the Kingdom. Announcements about their pre-season fixtures are expected soon.

Fixtures: Al Nassr vs Maritimo (July 19); other fixtures TBC

Al Ittihad

Al Ittihad has had a chaotic off-season, with coach Marcelo Gallardo released from his contract and the club disappointingly unable to confirm the appointment of a successor quickly. Ex-AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli appeared to be lined up but with reports suggesting the future of new Ittihad club president Louay Nazer is in question, Pioli’s appointment is too.

Whoever ends up in the Ittihad hot seat will oversee a pre-season that will take place primarily in southern Spain. The squad will be based in a training camp in Alicante from July 12 to 26, before moving to Portugal’s Algarve from July 27 to August 3.

The Jeddah club’s pre-season fixtures begin with a match against seven-time Europa League winner Sevilla on July 29 at the iconic Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, before another game against cross-city rivals and fellow La Liga outfit Real Betis on August 3. Ittihad then travels to Italy to face Serie A champion Inter Milan in Monza on August 7.

Fixtures: Al Ittihad vs Sevilla (July 29); Al Ittihad vs Real Betis (August 3); Al Ittihad vs Inter Milan (August 7)

Best of the rest

No other Saudi Pro League clubs have announced formal, multi-date tours yet but several individual friendlies have been confirmed.

Joining Al Nassr and Al Ittihad in Spain will be Al Ettifaq, with Steven Gerrard’s team taking on local club FC Cartagena at the La Manga sports complex on July 27. It will be one of five games in Spain for Ettifaq during a month-long camp that will last from July 10 to August 7, though the other fixtures haven’t yet been confirmed.

Al Ahli, which finished third last season and will play as one of three Saudi representatives in the first edition of the AFC Champions League Elite in 2024-25, has a match penciled in on July 27 against Belgian second-tier side Lommel - part of the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan-owned City Football Group.

Al Raed narrowly escaped relegation from the Saudi Pro League in 2023-24 and its as-yet-unconfirmed new coach will travel to Slovenia for the club’s pre-season tour, with matches lined up against local clubs HNK Gorica and Zorya Luhansk on July 17 and 23 respectively.

Also based in Slovenia for its pre-season camp is Damac, which will fly out from the Kingdom on July 17 and back on August 7 - but the club hasn’t announced any fixtures.

The Central European nation certainly seems a popular pre-season destination for Saudi sides, with Al Taawoun already in Slovenia for its camp with new boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena, the former Boca Juniors and UAE national team coach who was confirmed as Pericles Chamusca’s replacement last week.

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