Saudi Arabia are preparing for the World Cup and have quite deliberately scheduled 3 games against sides from Europe this week in the knowledge they will face at least one European team in the finals. However they are a side that many will be hoping to be paired with when the groups are drawn in Russia in a few weeks time. Even against a fairly average European team like Bulgaria, they could come unstuck in this game which takes place in Portugal.
The Saudis aren’t great travellers which is a concern for them. They won 8 of their 9 home World Cup qualifiers, which is really what fired them to the finals but they lost away to the three strongest teams in their group and were easily dismantled 3-0 by an inexperienced Portugal side last week. This match should be closer but they are missing their prolific striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi and none of their other forwards have more than 3 international goals.
At the other end they are vulnerable and have managed just 1 clean sheet in their last 8 away internationals. As for Bulgaria, they are a strange side in many ways. They’ve already beaten the likes of Sweden and Holland in competitive matches in 2017 but they also have been held by Luxembourg and have lost to Belarus.
Many European sides that haven’t made the World Cup have used the international break to field some younger players and look to the next generation. However Bulgaria haven’t named a single player under the age of 24 in this squad so it’s a pretty experienced outfit and they look keen to secure a win to end the year on a positive note.
Saudi Arabia’s struggles on the road and general weakness against European opposition suggests going for a Bulgaria win could be the best bet here. It’s also worth noting that it’s likely to be some way off their strongest eleven given they’ve used these 3 games to experiment a little whereas this is Bulgaria’s only fixture during the international break and they’ve only named a small squad for it so it won’t be too far off their strongest eleven.