Al-Hilal’s world-record streak raises fears over Pro League predictability

A 28th straight victory for the champions elect means Saudi rivals have much work to do despite big-money arrivals

Fans of The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club were surely supporting Al-Ittihad on Tuesday. The Jeddah team were TNS’s only hope of protecting their world record for the longest winning streak by a men’s top-tier team in all competitions. That was set in December 2016 when the 16-time Cymru Premier champions won their 27th game in a row to end Ajax’s 44-year spell at the top. Al-Ittihad failed and Al-Hilal collected their 28th straight victory to take the accolade from the English-Welsh border to Riyadh.

The last opponents not to lose against Al-Hilal were Damac who, thanks to a 30-yard free-kick from Nicolae Stanciu, drew 1-1 in September. That was Neymar’s first league start after his big move to the Saudi Pro League, but he has played little part in this run owing to a cruciate injury sustained with Brazil the following month. Instead, others have shone. Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 28 goals in 30 league and Champions League appearances since arriving from Fulham. Rúben Neves has impressed from the start and, in the second half of the season, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has become increasingly influential. The Brazilian winger Malcom, a big-money buy even if it did not make big news, has settled well and there is also Salem Al-Dawsari, the Asian player of the year.

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