An all-Saudi Arabia clash between Al Nassr and Al Ahli and an encounter between Group B winners Pakhtakor and Group C winners Persepolis await on Wednesday as the four sides vie for a place in the competition’s final in December.
Marko Marin (Al Ahli Saudi FC)
Marin’s winning goal in the 1-0 victory against Al Shorta on Matchday Three proved key for Al Ahli who became the first team to reach the Round of 16, confirming qualification with two games to spare. The Jeddah-based side then went on to be the first into the quarter-finals after a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Shabab Al Ahli Dubai.
The 31-year-old winger joined Al Ahli in January from Red Star Belgrade, bringing bags of experience having represented Germany at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and won UEFA Europa League titles with Chelsea and Sevilla.
Despite missing Al Ahli’s first two games in the 2020 AFC Champions League to injury, Marin has created 10 chances for his teammates in the competition, more than any other player at the club. Among Al Ahli players, only Ali Al Asmari (57) has played more passes into the opposition’s third than Marin (56).
Bashar Resan (Persepolis FC)
Very few players at the age of 23 can claim to have played in AFC competitions as often as Resan. Rising to prominence as part of the Iraq side that won the 2014 AFC U23 Championship, the midfielder then guided Air Force Club to the 2016 AFC Cup title, earning a move to Iranian giants Persepolis whom he excelled for over the past years, reaching the AFC Champions League semi-finals in 2017 and then the final in 2018.
In the 2020 AFC Champions League, Resan’s goal from the spot earned Persepolis a valuable 1-0 win over Al Taawoun on Matchday Three as the Iranians turned around a slow start to the campaign to finish top of Group C with 10 points, before edging Al Sadd 1-0 in the round of 16.
Resan delivered 118 passes ending in the final third for Persepolis, only Vahid Amiri (135) supplied more, and the Iraqi international midfielder is also second in terms of chances created (6) behind Ehsan Pahlavan (10) and his six shots were only bettered at the club by forward Isa Al Kasir, highlighting his involvement in all parts of Persepolis’ attacking play.
Jaloliddin Masharipov (Pakhtakor FC)
Pakhtakor are back in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 11 years, and no player best embodies their resurgence both domestically and on the continental front than 27-year-old winger Masharipov.
Having been at the club since 2013, Masharipov has been key to coach Shota Arveladze’s plans in the 2020 AFC Champions League, scoring their first goal of the campaign against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in February and their last of the group stage in the 1-0 Matchday Six win over Shahr Khodro FC.
Masharipov leads the competition’s charts in terms of most creative statistics; he created 20 chances for his teammates, seven more than Al Sadd’s Akram Afif in second, completed 29 dribbles, seven more than Sharjah’s Caio in second and played 159 passes ending in the final third, more than any other player in the competition, highlighting his status as one of the finest attacking talents on display in the 2020 AFC Champions League.
Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al Nassr FC)
No list of key attacking players in the 2020 AFC Champions League can be complete without the competition’s top scorer. Hamdallah’s red hot form continued with the winner in the Round of 16 against Al Taawoun, a goal that saw him enter the competition's history books, having found the net in nine consecutive AFC Champions League matches, matching the record set by Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk in 2017.
The Moroccan striker joined Al Nassr in 2018 and became an instant fan favourite, leading the club to the 2018-19 Saudi Pro League title by scoring a league record 35 goals in his maiden season. The following season he made it back-to-back top scorer awards, netting 29 times.
No player has contributed more goals in the 2020 AFC Champions League than Hamdallah’s seven; six goals and one assist. And the 29-year-old gets his goals with extreme efficiency; no player with more than two goals has a higher shot conversion rate than his 31%. Only Al Sadd’s Baghdad Bounedjah (16) has more shots inside the box than Hamdallah (12).