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Asian Qualifiers - Group D Preview: Saudi Arabia in bid to tighten grip against Singapore, Yemen test for Uzbekistan

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan will continue their battle for the top spot of Group D of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 as they take on Singapore and Yemen respectively on Friday.

Leading the group with a two-point margin, hosts Saudi Arabia will aim to extend their unbeaten run to seven games with a repeat of their Matchday Three win against Singapore.

Hot on their trails, Uzbekistan are in pursuit of a third consecutive win and securing the three points against Yemen could be their only way to go into the final matchday with a chance of finishing top.

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Singapore v Saudi Arabia

Undefeated in six and top of the group, Saudi Arabia go into the penultimate matchday in pursuit of a win over Singapore to cement their place and ensure they continue to hold an advantage when they face their nearest chasers Uzbekistan four days later.

Coach Bert van Marwijk’s men are on a three-match winning streak, including back-to-back clean sheets. Back in March, they swept aside Palestine 5-0 in Riyadh then followed it up with an emphatic 3-0 win over Yemen last week to resume their pursuit of FIFA World Cup qualification for the second time in a row.

Their challengers at King Saud University Stadium are a Singapore side reeling from consecutive heavy defeats; 4-0 by Palestine and 5-0 by Uzbekistan within the span of a week.

The last meeting between the two teams took place 350km north of Friday’s venue, in the city of Buraidah. Abdulfattah Assiri struck either side of the halftime break and youngster Abdullah Al Hamdan added his name to the scoresheet at the hour mark, and while Assiri is not part of the current squad, coach Herve Renard will be hopeful his men can repeat the victory on Friday.

Singapore v Saudi Arabia
Venue: King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh
Kick-off: 21:00 hours (UTC+3)

Yemen v Uzbekistan

Despite being bottom of Group D, Yemen still have a chance to climb up as high as third in the table as they find themselves two points behind Palestine and Singapore having played a game less than both.

In order to do so, coach Ahmed Qasim’s men will need to do significantly better than the reverse fixture which they lost 5-0 in Tashkent on Matchday Three. Indeed, they need to add a second win 19 months after defeating Palestine 1-0 in what remains their only win of the campaign.

Free-scoring Uzbekistan put five against Singapore on their return to the Qualifiers, taking their tally to 17 goals, more than any other team in the group.

Head coach Vadim Abramov’s men had started their Asian Qualifiers campaign with a stunning 2-0 defeat to Palestine, but have since gone on a run of three wins and a single defeat by Saudi Arabia, whom they hope to edge to the top spot on the final matchday, but for that to remain a possibility, a win against Yemen is essential.

Yemen v Uzbekistan
Venue: King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh
Kick-off: 21:00 hours (UTC+3)

*Polls end on June 11, 23:00 hours (UTC+8)

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