After the first leg of the Asian Zone play-off tie between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia ended goalless, the Saudis will be aiming to keep their hopes of qualifying for a fifth successive FIFA World Cup™ finals in 9 September's second leg.
Having underperformed in Bahrain, with their hosts only denied a breakthrough thanks to a series of excellent stops by keeper Waleed Ali, the Saudis have an ideal opportunity to set the record straight in the return in Riyadh and book a place in the inter-confederation play-off against New Zealand.
Saudi Arabia-Bahrain, Wednesday 9 September, King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh
Four years ago the King Fahd International Stadium provided the setting for the Saudis to clinch qualification for Germany 2006, though this time around the three-time Asian champions are in danger of missing out on the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time since USA 1994.
The Saudis' Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro must unearth an answer to his side's travails in front of goal, with Yasser Al Kahtani and Co unable to find the net in their last three outings: against Korea Republic, Korea DPR and Bahrain. Indeed, all three of these games ended goalless.
The former Sporting Lisbon supremo will be hoping Al Kahtani can make a quick recovery from a knock sustained in the first leg. However, if the striker loses his fitness race Peseiro may turn to Nassir Al Shamrani, who looked very dangerous after being brought on as a substitute for Malek Maaz on Saturday.
In the opposing camp, Bahrain coach Milan Macala will be without captain Mohamed Salmeen and fellow midfield man Abdulla Al Marzooqi through suspension. He is thus expected to opt for Mahmood Abdulrahman, who, along with Jaycee John, came on as a substitute in the first leg.
Macala has insider knowledge of the Saudi set-up having coached them at the 2000 AFC Asian Cup in Lebanon, and would surely love to get one over his former team while fulfilling Bahrain's dream of qualifying for their first ever FIFA World Cup finals. This after Bahrain came mighty close to reaching Germany 2006 under then boss Luka Peruzovic, only to be edged out by inter-confederation play-off opponents Trinidad and Tobago.
Player to watch
Bahrain are pinning their hopes on Nigeria-born star Jaycee John, with the Belgian-based front-man coming close to scoring on several occasions after joining the action in Manama. On fire for club side Mouscron, with four goals in five games so far this season, John will be aiming to translate this form to the international stage and keep his adopted country's South Africa 2010 dream alive.
The numbers game
8 - The number of goals both scored and conceded by Saudi Arabia during the fourth stage of qualifying in the Asian Zone.
What they said
"No team has an advantage after the result in the first leg. If the Bahrainis score in Riyadh it could prove decisive, so we'll be trying to win the game in normal time. After we were unable to win Saturday's game, we'll be doing our utmost to correct the mistakes we made," Saudi Arabia coach Jose Peseiro.
Have your say
Can the Saudis reach the 2010 FIFA World Cup via the play-off route? Will Bahrain deny Saudi Arabia a fifth successive finals appearance and further their own bid to reach South Africa 2010? Click on 'Add your comment' to have your voice heard.