Great Asian Derbies: Al Hilal vs Al Nassr (Riyadh)
Riyadh: Tonight one of the most hotly anticipated matches of the Saudi Pro League calendar will see reigning champions Al Hilal against city neighbours Al Nassr in the historic derby of the capital Riyadh.
The arch-rivals will be gunning for more than just bragging rights as both teams look to continue their unbeaten starts to the league campaign.
In this part of the-AFC.com's “Great Asian Derbies” series, we take a closer look at what makes this fixture so special.
The two Riyadh clubs date back to the early days of organised football activity in the Saudi midlands of Najd in the 1950s.
Brothers Zaid and Hussain Al Jab’a established Al Nassr club in the old centre of Riyadh in 1955.
The name of the club means 'Victory' in Arabic and its now famous yellow and blue colours were chosen to represent the Arabian desert and the surrounding seas respectively.
Two years later, Riyadh witnessed the birth of another future giant of Saudi football.
Al Hilal's actual founding in 1957 was under the name of the 'Olympic Club'. The following year, the club was renamed Al Hilal (The Crescent).
Although the first nationwide Saudi league only started in 1976, the two rivals first locked horns in the 1963 King's Cup and shared a 1-1 draw.
The Riyadh derby has been played at a number of stadiums across Saudi Arabia and even abroad - the 2015 Saudi Super Cup between Al Hilal and Al Nassr was played at Loftus Road in London.
At home, the two teams have played most of their recent derbies at Riyadh's iconic King Fahd International Stadium. Built in 1987 ahead of the FIFA World Youth Championships, the venue can seat up to 67,000 fans.
In addition to the King Fahd Stadium, the derby has also been held at the older Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, which serves as a secondary venue for both teams' home matches.
Although both teams have been hugely successful in the domestic scene, their continental success adds another dimension to the rivalry.
Al Hilal led the way, becoming the first Saudi club to win Asia's premier club competition when they overcame Iranian side Esteghlal in the final to lift the 1991 Asian Club Championship trophy.
The Blues repeated their Asian Club Championship success in 2000 while they also boast two Asian Cup Winners Cup and as many Asian Super Cup titles.
More recently, Al Hilal finished as runners-up in the 2014 AFC Champions League and are making another bid to win the competition when they face Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in this year’s final.
While Al Hilal fans speak proudly of their sextuple of AFC trophies, their rivals across town take pride in being Asia’s first representatives at the maiden FIFA Club World Cup back in 2000.
Al Nassr are no strangers to AFC titles either, with Asian Cup Winners Cup and Asian Super Cup triumphs both coming in 1998.
The club had come close to lifting the Asian Club Championship in 1995, but fell just short after losing the final to Ilhwa Chunma in extra time.
A Match to Remember
One of the most memorable Riyadh derbies actually took place in Jeddah on the west coast of Saudi Arabia.
The newly opened King Abdullah Sports City Stadium hosted the 2015 Saudi Super Cup between an Al Nassr side that had just celebrated a second successive league title and an Al Hilal team looking to make it two Super Cup titles in a row.
Both sides had numerous opportunities to score throughout the 90 minutes but neither managed to break the deadlock.
In extra time, Al Nassr striker Mohammed Al Sahlawi found a breakthrough in the 92nd minute, heading in Adrian Mierzejewski’s cross as the yellow-clad fans went into raptures.
Al Nassr thought they had the match in the bag and were in celebration mode, but one man had a different say.
As the clock read 119:14, Al Hilal defender Mohammed Jahfali threw himself at a cross-goal headed pass and powered his header into the net for a late equaliser from close range to send the game to penalty shootouts.
The late comeback euphoria carried Al Hilal to a sudden-death win after goalkeeper Khalid Sharahili kept out Shaye Sharahili's penalty, completing an improbable triumph.