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Saudi Pro League Preview: All set for Al Nassr vs Al-Ahli

In one of the most eagerly anticipated matches on the Saudi Pro League calendar, Al Nassr hosts Al-Ahli on Friday night in a game that is, on paper, the highlight of this weekend’s fixtures.

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Al Arabiya English takes a look at what’s on the cards in this clash between the arch-rivals.

The context

Having been relegated in 2022, for the first time in its history, Al-Ahli had to wait for 16 long months before the team could take on its old rivals in the Saudi Pro League again. They earned promotion as champions at the first time of asking and have had an encouraging start to their first season back in the top tier – exploding out of the blocks with four wins in their first four games and five from six outings in total.

Al Nassr, in contrast, started slowly before hitting its stride in recent weeks – scoring a total of 17 goals as the team won each of its past four league games.

Traditionally, two of the biggest clubs in Saudi Arabia, Al Nassr (9) and Al-Ahli (3), have won 12 league titles between them and finished as runners-up in the division for a combined 16 times. Both teams are usually found in the upper echelons of the Saudi Pro League, and they are among the early pacesetters for the 2023-24 campaign, with Al-Ahli in third place and Al Nassr just three points behind them in sixth.

Al-Ahli will be better rested for Friday, having not played since its hard-fought 3-2 victory over Al-Taawoun last weekend.

On the other hand, Al Nassr traveled to Tehran on Tuesday for a tough AFC Champions League fixture against Persepolis. However, a 2-0 victory for Luis Castro’s side in Iran means Al Nassr has additional momentum going into Friday’s showdown in Riyadh.

Persepolis’ Hossein Kanan in action with Al Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo. (Reuters)

Persepolis’ Hossein Kanan in action with Al Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo. (Reuters)

Both sides have had busy summers and this is set to be one of the most memorable matches between them in years, thanks to the quality of the players involved. While Al Nassr can call on Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Seko Fofana, Aymeric Laporte and Marcelo Brozovic, Al-Ahli also have an embarrassment of riches, including Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, Riyad Mahrez, Franck Kessie and Allan Saint Maximin.

Beyond the impressive imports, there are significant connections between the clubs’ Saudi players, too. Al-Ahli’s Fahad al-Hamad and Ibrahim al-Zubaidi previously represented Al Nassr, while Saudi international forward Firas al-Buraikan – who switched over to Al-Ahli from Al-Fateh earlier this summer – began his career at Al Nassr after coming through their youth team.

On the other side, Mohammed al-Fatil had been at Al-Ahli for nine years before moving to Al Nassr in 2021, while 26-year-old Abdulrahman Ghareeb – who had impressed against Persepolis – was at Al-Ahli from the age of 14 until he joined Al Nassr in 2022. When the two clubs last played each other in the league last May, Ghareeb had scored for Al-Ahli in a 1-1 draw. He could be in line for an emotional start against his former club on Friday.

The managers

Luis Castro has already won his first trophy with Al Nassr after his side claimed their inaugural Arab Club Champions Cup triumph in August. The Portuguese coach is now hungry for more silverware. Al Nassr has found its rhythm after a slow start in the league, and their all-out attacking style has won Castro plenty of admirers in recent weeks.

Al Nassr coach Luis Castro reacts. (Reuters)

Al Nassr coach Luis Castro reacts. (Reuters)

He will be pitting his wits against Matthias Jaissle, who, at 35 years old, is a whopping 26 years younger than his opposite number. Jaissle has been widely tipped to have a successful coaching career ahead of him after impressively leading Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for the first time in what was his first major assignment.

Key rivalries

Alex Telles/Ghislain Konan/Abdulrahman Ghareeb vs Riyad Mahrez

While ex-Roma defender Roger Ibañez’s attempts to keep Cristiano Ronaldo at bay will make for an interesting tussle, the most intriguing contest on Friday will be on Al-Ahli’s right wing. It remains to be seen who from Al Nassr will be tasked with stifling Riyad Mahrez, who – as was the case for several years at Manchester City – has been absolutely lethal this season when cutting in from the right and positioning his favored left foot for a deadly strike.

Ronaldo with his Al Nassr club teammates. (Twitter)

Ronaldo with his Al Nassr club teammates. (Twitter)

Ex-Manchester United man Alex Telles played at left-back for Al Nassr in their last league outing, but Mahrez convincingly got the better of him when the pair did battle in the 2022 Manchester derby, scoring twice in a 4-1 win.

Ivorian Ghislain Konan has also appeared at left-back a few times this season and could be preferred, while Abdulrahman Ghareeb scored against Persepolis in the AFC Champions League earlier this week. Whoever Al Nassr coach Castro selects, his left-back is destined to have his hands full with Al-Ahli’s Algerian ace.

The prediction

Although Mahrez is certainly capable of conjuring up magic moments, Al Nassr has players capable of keeping him quiet and have really hit the ground in recent games. They should be too strong for Al-Ahli at the King Saud University Stadium.

Absolute gut feelings? Expect a home win.

Read more:

Future of Saudi women’s football bright as young ‘pioneers’ shape history

Ronaldo helps Al Nassr to historic Asia Cup win against Persepolis in Iran

Meet the Saudi clubs chasing AFC Champions League glory

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EU Organic Journey Hosts Exclusive B2B Dinner in Dubai, Unveiling European Organic Excellence

The European program “EU Organic Journey”nhosted a distinguished B2B dinner on the evening of the 14th of December 2023 at 19:00, set against the elegant backdrop of MYOCUM Dubai Restaurant (2D St, Al Wasl, Dubai, United Arab Emirates).
Bringing together key players from the Horeca sector, importers, distributors, wholesalers, grocery chains, organic shops, and esteemed food bloggers, the event showcased an array of delectable European organic products, including virgin olive oil, olives, and organic dairy products.
Attendees were treated to a unique opportunity to engage with representatives from the contributing organizations, fostering connections while savoring the exquisite European offerings. The ambiance of MYOCUM Dubai Restaurant provided the perfect setting for meaningful discussions on potential business opportunities. Throughout the evening, participants delved into the heart of the European program  “EU Organic Journey”gaining valuable insights into its initiatives, organic production methods,
and the superior quality of the promoted products. Representatives from the participating organizations were on hand to provide in-depth information, facilitating discussions on potential collaborations and partnerships within the organic industry.
The B2B dinner not only celebrated the richness of European organic products but also served as a platform for networking and knowledge-sharing. Attendees left the event with a deeper understanding of the “EU Organic Journey,” equipped with the information needed to explore new business avenues and enhance their involvement in the organic sector. The EU Financed campaign EU Organic Journey aims to promote and increase the awareness regarding the European organic products from Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria to consumers in UAE, Saudi Arabia and USA with the participation of the organizations Agrodiatrofiki Sympraxi Perifereias Stereas Elladas (ASPSE) from Greece, Bio Carpathia Cooperative from
Romania and National Organic Association (NAO)from Bulgaria.

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Classification: Public New Murabba appointed AtkinsRéalis to masterplan the world’s largest modern downtown in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The New Murabba Development Company (NMDC), a fully-owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia,
has appointed AtkinsRéalis (TSX: ATRL), a fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world, to support the design of the New Murabba masterplan, the world’s largest modern downtown in Riyadh, and the Mukaab, an immersive destination that will revolutionize the way in which people experience hospitality, retail and
leisure. A signing ceremony, attended by Sabah Barakat, Acting CEO, New Murabba Development Company, and Campbell Gray, CEO of AtkinsRéalis, Middle East and Africa, was held to mark this milestone and celebrate the ongoing support to deliver Riyadh’s new iconic destination. Sabah Barakat, Acting CEO, New Murabba Development Company, commented: “We are proud
to recognize the important role that AtkinsRéalis has played so far in the translation of the incredible vision of this project into the design of the masterplan and the iconic Mukaab building. We’re also pleased to recognize the ongoing involvement of AtkinsRéalis in this project through a series of recent contract awards relating to the further detailing and definition
of the overall New Murabba masterplan and infrastructure design, as well as the concept design of the iconic Mukaab building.”
“The New Murabba project aligns with Saudi Arabia’s national vision aimed at developing the infrastructure, enabling the private sector, and creating job opportunities for local talent,“ added Campbell Gray, CEO of AtkinsRéalis, Middle East and Africa. “We are proud to work with NMDC on this ambitious project and bring our global engineering excellence and design
expertise, underpinned by cutting-edge technologies and sustainable solutions, to deliver a long-  lasting legacy for the Kingdom and its future generations.” After successfully winning the international architectural and master planning competition for Riyadh’s new icon, AtkinsRéalis will provide its world class advisory, architecture, masterplanning and engineering services to deliver this groundbreaking project, a cornerstone to the visionary reinvention of the Kingdom’s capital city. Contributing to the city’s future development in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the New Murabba masterplan is inspired by Riyadh’s original balance with nature, and its design is focused on a data-driven approach to sustainability, user convenience, reduction in the need for transport, walkability and people- centric design of its public realm. “Synonymous with designing iconic landmarks in the Middle East, AtkinsRéalis has established a stellar reputation for delivering people-centric destinations combining the region’s cultural identity with modern urban standards,“ said Matthew Tribe, Managing Director, Planning, Design, and Engineering at AtkinsRéalis, Middle East and Africa. “This project win is a testament to our innovative architectural design approach set to redefine downtowns of the future living experience not only in Riyadh but also globally.”

AtkinsRéalis’s competition-winning scheme is inspired by Najdi Architecture, with a focus on creating a futuristic landmark with deep contextual roots that blends Riyadh’s cultural heritage with its future ambitions. The Mukaab, which means cube in Arabic, will be the world’s largest immersive destination providing innovative experiences driven by digital and virtual technology.
The Mukaab’s exterior envelop shrouds an internal skyscraper, which will be one of the largest built structures in the world’s history, standing 400m high, 400m wide, and 400m long. The design of the Mukaab will also include first-of-its-kind hospitality, F&B and retail facilities.

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ASPIRE’s A2RL Debuts Autonomous Racing Car in Abu Dhabi

-Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League to hold its first event in April 2024

– A2RL introduces an enhanced version of the 300 km/h Japanese Super Formula SF23 racing car

– Autonomous technology testing commences ahead of inaugural race in April 2024

ASPIRE’s grand challenge, the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League – A2RL, has for the first time revealed its autonomous, highly modified Super Formula SF23 development car. The first glimpse
unfolded at ASPIRE’s offices in Abu Dhabi, near the world-famous Yas Marina Circuit, where the premier event of the season – the Formula 1 (F1) Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023 – is currently underway. The same venue will play host to the inaugural A2RL racing event scheduled for next April. Globally acclaimed journalists, representing the world’s most reputable automotive and
racing publications, were also present during the car’s spectacular reveal – further solidifying
the cars status as a trailblazer in the motorsports industry. In April 2024, ten teams spanning North America, Europe, the UAE, and Asia will battle it out to claim a stake in the US$2.25 million purse. The series aims to accelerate autonomous driving development and innovation, pushing the
technology forward for the eventual benefit of road car safety. The new series makes the best use of the forward-thinking and blisteringly quick Super Formula SF23 racing car, developed by motorsport powerhouse Dalarra. All cars will come equipped with an array of sensors and control units as well as a basic level of autonomous performance. The autonomous car unveiled today was fresh off the track, having completed a successful week of testing. Attendees were shown how A2RL’s extensive testing programme has begun to refine the base SF23 platform. This includes validating an array of sensors, controlmodules, and autonomous control software. Once finalized, this base platform will be madeavailable to the ten teams participating in the inaugural A2RL race at Yas Marina Circuit onApril 28, 2024.

His Excellency Faisal Al Bannai, Secretary General of the Advanced Technology
Research Council, ASPIREs parent entity, said, “This is an exciting opportunity to use
extreme sports as the basis for delivering technical advances. A2RL represents an
investment that will contribute to building an autonomous mobility ecosystem in Abu Dhabi,
showcasing safe deployment and encouraging OEM investments for widespread adoption,
ultimately enhancing road safety.”
Stephane Timpano, CEO at ASPIRE, commented: “We are thrilled to debut the A2RL
autonomous racing car to global media. It was an exciting opportunity to discuss our latest
developments and testing while also highlighting the motivation and competitors behind the
competition. A2RL will be the largest autonomous racing league in the world, shifting focus
from drivers to the engineers, scientists, and programmers behind brilliant autonomous
racing systems.”

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