ACL Matchday Five: West Zone Preview
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All teams across the four groups are still in contention for qualification to the Round of 16, setting up some tasty encounters in the eight matches taking place across Monday and Tuesday.

Group A

A point will be enough for Islamic Republic of Iran’s Zobahan to seal their place in the Round of 16 when they travel to Iraq for the clash with Al Zawraa Club on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, any result other than the three points in Riyadh means Al Wasl’s slim hopes of progression will vanish, leaving their opponents Al Nassr to contest the second qualification spot with Al Zawraa.

Zobahan had cemented their place at the top of the group table with a 2-0 win over Al Wasl on Matchday Four, keeping their unbeaten run intact. The Isfahan-based team now have 10 points, four points clear off their nearest chasers.

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There was a reversal of fortunes for Al Nassr, who had failed to win any of their first two matches, but then registered back-to-back wins to climb up the table into second place with six points, two ahead of Al Zawraa.

A three-match winless run following their opening day victory over Al Nassr saw Al Wasl slip to the foot of the group with three points, meaning they need to win their remaining two matches and wait for other results to go their way if they are to advance to the next stage.

 

Al Zawraa Club (IRQ) vs Zobahan (IRN)

Venue: Karbala Sports City, Karbala

Kick-off: May 7, 18:00 UTC+3:00

Al Nassr (KSA) vs Al Wasl (UAE)

Venue: King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh

Kick-off: May 7, 21:00 UTC+3:00

 

Group B

Doing the double over Al Rayyan across the past two matchdays sent UAE’s Al Wahda to the top of the group with nine points. A point at home against PFC Lokomotiv on Tuesday will confirm the Emiratis’ place in the Round of 16.

The task will not be easy for coach Henk ten Cate’s men, who had lost their previous three encounters against Lokomotiv, including a 2-0 defeat on Matchday One this season and two heavy defeats in the 2018 edition; 5-0 in Tashkent and 4-1 in Abu Dhabi.

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In Doha, Al Rayyan cannot afford to lose against Al Ittihad; a third consecutive defeat would consign the Qataris to elimination before the final matchday.

Their Tuesday opponents return to continental action off the back of a disappointing domestic defeat to Al Tawoun in the King’s Cup final.

The two-time AFC Champions League winners are second in the table with seven points and a win on Tuesday will see them through to the knockout stage for the first time in five years.

Al Wahda (UAE) vs PFC Lokomotiv (UZB)

Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Kick-off: May 7, 22:00 UTC+4

Al Rayyan (QAT) vs Al Ittihad (KSA)

Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha

Kick-off: May 7, 21:30 UTC+3

 

Group C

The group that boasts four of the Continent’s finest sides sees all of them going through turmoil ahead of a decisive Matchday Five.

Despite a return to winning ways in the previous matchday, Al Hilal go into Monday’s game with a new coach and a new club president. A 5-0 defeat to Al Tawoun in the King’s Cup semi-final (the club’s worst in the 21st century), and a 2-0 loss to the same side in the league days later saw Zoran Mamic sacked and Prince Mohammed bin Faisal resign as president.

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Al Hilal host an Al Ain side that have officially lost their UAE Pro League title after a five-match winless run in the league saw them drop to fifth, battling for a place in next year’s AFC Champions League.

A win for the Saudi side on Monday would confirm a ninth knock-out stage appearance in the last decade, while formally ending Al Ain’s already slender hopes of advancing.

Esteghlal, another side who have swapped coaches since their last continental outing, will be led by Farhad Majidi, who replaced Winfried Schafer, when they welcome Al Duhail to Azadi Stadium. Any result except a win will send the Iranians out of the competition early.

Esteghlal (IRN) vs Al Duhail (QAT)

Venue: Azadi Stadium, Tehran

Kick-off: May 6, 20:30 UTC+4:30

Al Hilal (KSA) vs Al Ain (UAE)

Venue: King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh

Kick-off: May 6, 22:00 UTC+3

 

Group D

Every team in Group D could still finish top or bottom, with just three points separating leaders Al Sadd from fourth-placed Persepolis.

Last year’s finalists, Persepolis have lost both their away trips this campaign, but they need a result when they travel to Tashkent for the clash of Pakhtakor on Monday. The Iranians are bottom of the group with four points, just one behind their hosts.

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The second Monday fixture sees Al Ahli and Al Sadd face-off in Doha 364 days after their last encounter at the same stadium in the 2018 AFC Champions League Round of 16. Then, Al Sadd emerged 2-1 winners, laying the foundations for quarter-final progression, having earned a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture in Jeddah a week later.

This time around, Al Sadd are a point ahead of their opponents and the three points on Monday would put the winning side in a comfortable position, although official qualification may have to wait until the final matchday nevertheless.

FC Pakhtakor (UZB) vs Persepolis (IRN)

Venue: Pakhtakor Central Stadium, Tashkent

Kick-off: May 6, 20:00 UTC+5

 

Al Sadd (QAT) vs Al Ahli (KSA)

Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Doha

Kick-off: May 6, 21:45 UTC+3