Neymar could finally make his full Al Hilal debut as the Saudi club begins AFC Champions League group stage play against Uzbekistan side Navbahor Namangan.
After a longer wait than usual thanks to an ankle injury, Neymar made his Al Hilal debut on Friday, coming off the bench to play 26 minutes and picked up an assist in a 6-1 demolition of Al Riyadh.
His introduction marked the completion of Al Hilal’s incredible summer transfer window, which brought in the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Malcom, Ruben Neves, Sergej Milnikovic-Savic, and Yassine Bounou all from big European clubs.
They get continental play started against Navbahor who sit second in their league table through 17 matches, seven points back of leaders Pakhtakor who also appear in this competition alongside another Saudi club, Al Fayha, in their group.
Unlike the UEFA Champions League, the group stage of the Asian competition only sees the top spot in each group guaranteed to reach the knockout round, while the second-place finisher must rank in the top six amongst runners-up to advance, meaning points are extremely valuable in every group match.
The Sporting News is following the Al Hilal vs. Navbahor Namangan match live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
Al Hilal vs Navbahor live score
|Score (1H)||Goal scorers|
Al Hilal (4-2-3-1, right to left): 21. Al Owais (GK) — 66. Abdulhamid, 87. Tambakti, 5. Al Bulayhi, 12. Al Shahrani — 8. Neves, 7. Al Faraj — 96. Michael, 77. Malcom, 10. Neymar — 9. Mitrovic
Navbahor (3-4-3, right to left): 1. Yusupov (GK) — 13. Ivanovic, 5. Milovic, 6. Yuldoshev — 14. Boltaboev, 17. Ismoilov, 10. Iskanderov, 7. Urunov — 22. Golban, 91. Tabatadze, 77. Sobirjonov.
Al Hilal vs Navbahor live updates, highlights, commentary
Al Hilal vs Navbahor: First Half
8th min: This is better from Al Hilal, who are beginning to build into the match and have another corner as Michael bursts down the right wing and is only dispossessed at the last moment by his defender who pokes the ball over the end line.
It’s Ruben Neves who will take this time from the opposite flag, but before he can do so the referee has to sort out some nonsense in the penalty area as Neymar and Ibrokhim Yuldoshev both end up on the deck. Replay shows it’s all a bit ridiculous, as Yuldoshev flopped and ended up tripping Neymar in the process.
The eventual delivery is again cleared.
4th min: Al Hilal earn a corner, the first of the game, which Neymar delivers, but it’s punched out by the Navbahor goalkeeper.
In truth, the early stages of this match have featured more physicality than attacking impetus, as both teams have looked to unsettle the other.
Kickoff: The match is under way from Riyadh! Three points here are essential for Al Hilal, after the other match in Group D play saw the visiting team pick up a victory. Remember, only the group winner is guaranteed to advance to the Round of 16, while the runner-up must sweat out the second-place table!
Al Hilal fans made sure to remind their opponents today of their success in this competition, having won the AFC Champions League on eight different occasions, the last coming two years ago.
جماهير الهلال تستعرض البطولات الآسيوية 💙 pic.twitter.com/0xvVunDmPb
— منبر الهلال – Mnbr Alhilal (@MnbrAlhilal) September 18, 2023
Al Hilal vs Navbahor: Pre-match commentary, analysis, stats, and more
15 mins to kick: In the other Group D match earlier today, Iranian club Nassaji Mazandaran won on the road at Mumbai City by a 2-0 score to pick up three huge points early on. The visitors got one goal in each half, with 23-year-old Iranian striker Mohammad Azadi, one of the club’s most valuable players, bagging the second.
📊 AFCCL 23/24 Group D team and player values:
🇸🇦 Al-Hilal – €258M
👤 Neymar €60M, Savic €50M
🇺🇿 Navbahor – €10M
👤 Iskandarov €0.8M, Urunov €0.8M
🇮🇳 Mumbai City – €5M
👤 Nieff €0.5M, Diaz €0.4M
🇮🇷 FC Nassaji – €5M
👤 Azadi €0.4M, Hardani €0.4M
📰 Transfermarkt pic.twitter.com/5XsZNGcD8u
— Sevens Football (@sevensftbl) August 24, 2023
30 mins to kick: Over in Iran, Al Hilal’s Saudi rivals Al Nassr are playing a road group stage match against Persepolis tomorrow. The scenes in Tehran are incredible, as fans mob the Al Nassr bus in the streets after arriving the day before their match.
It’s likely that Neymar and Al Hilal see similar treatment when they travel for a road game themselves in Iran, plus densely populated India.
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) September 18, 2023
45 mins to kick: The AFC Champions League’s roster rules have made headlines in the leadup to the start of the competition, as it has caused problems for the Saudi clubs in particular, who are not able to roster their new star players that arrived en masse this summer.
According to the competition’s official regulations, rosters may only include five players from outside the club’s home nation, while a sixth is allowed if they also hold the nationality of the home nation.
That’s played out here today goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, and midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic do not appear in the squad at all for Al Hilal. Their five internationals registered are Neymar (Brazil), Malcom (Brazil), Michael (Brazil), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia), and Ruben Neves (Portugal).
Al Hilal escalado com Neymar titular para a estreia na Champions asiática contra o Navbahor.
Pelo limite de estrangeiros, ficam fora Bono, Koulibaly e Milinkovic-Savic.
ESPN e Star+ transmitem às 15h. pic.twitter.com/uJDeWpBs7p
— Leonardo Bertozzi (@lbertozzi) September 18, 2023
1 hour to kickoff: Lineups are in and it is confirmed that Neymar will make his first start for Al Hilal, installed into the starting lineup alongside a few of the team’s other stars, while others are left on the sidelines due to roster limitations.
— AlHilal Saudi Club (@Alhilal_EN) September 18, 2023
1 hour 15 mins to kick: The stakes for this AFC Champions League match are a bit higher than fans of the UEFA continental tournament are used to. While in Europe, the top two teams advance automatically to the knockout round, that’s not necessarily the case here.
The group winner qualifies directly to the knockout stage, but the second-place finisher must be amongst the top six in the runners-up table to reach the Round of 16. Points are even more valuable in each group match with the knowledge that any slip could result in a failure to advance.
Because of that, the AFC Champions League has instituted VAR for the group stage for the first time in the competition’s history.
🔸 Return of home and away matches
🔸 VAR in Group Stage for the first time
— #ACL (@TheAFCCL) September 14, 2023
1 hour 30 mins to kickoff: American fans tuning in to the AFC Champions League may recognise a few of the names in the Navbahor Namangan lineup today, as goalkeeper Uktir Yusupov and midfielder Oston Urunov both started the Uzbekistan friendly against the United States 11 days ago.
Yusupov was forced into three saves as the United States won 3-0, while Urunov struggled in a No. 10 role, overshadowed in the attacking third by full-back Khojiakbar Alijonov who plays for rival Uzbekistan club Pakhtakor Tashkent.
Tim Weah gives USMNT the early lead 🚀
Watch USA vs. Uzbekistan on TNT 📺 pic.twitter.com/NmKIxbgeff
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 9, 2023
Al Hilal vs Navbahor lineups & team news
After making his debut for Al Hilal off the bench on Friday, Neymar is slotted straight into the starting XI for their first Champions League clash. He played significant minutes for Brazil over the international break, and now looks to hit the ground running with his new club.
New signings Malcom and Ruben Neves have been regular starters since arriving, and they get the nod here. Likewise with Aleksandar Mitrovic despite supposedly dealing with a foot injury for some time at Fulham.
However, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have been harshly left off the roster due to the limits on foreign players in the AFC Champions League.
Al Hilal confirmed starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Al Owais (GK) — Abdulhamid, Tambakti, Al Bulayhi, Al Shahrani — Neves, Al Faraj — Michael, Malcom, Neymar — Mitrovic
Al Hilal subs (11): Al Wutaian (GK), Al Hamddan, Abu Rasen, Al Dawsari, Kanno, Al Burayk, Al Qahtani, Jahfali, Mufarrij, Al Dawsari, Al Shehri.
For Navbahor this will be their first game since the international break and there are no known injuries or suspensions to worry about, although the absence of midfielder Jovan Djokic from the squad entirely begs a few questions.
Goalkeeper Uktir Yusupov and midfielder Oston Urunov were heavily involved with the Uzbekistan national team during the September international break in friendlies against CONCACAF sides United States and Mexico, while Jamshid Iskanderov also appeared briefly off the bench.
Navbahor confirmed starting lineup (3-4-3): Yusupov (GK) — Ivanovic, Milovic, Yuldoshev — Boltaboev, Ismoilov, Iskanderov, Urunov — Golban, Tabatadze, Sobirjonov.
Navbahor subs (10): Nesterov (GK), Akhmedov, Khashimov, Olimzhonov, Abdumannopov, Buriev, Cermelj, Muminov, Jurabekkov, Abdukholiqov.
How to watch Al Hilal vs Navbahor
|Hong Kong||—||M Plus Live|
|Malaysia||Astro SuperSport 2||Sooka, Astro Go|