ACL Matchday Three: West Zone Preview
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Al Zawraa look to extend an impressive defensive record, Al Nassr chase a first-win in eight while their rivals Al Hilal eye a perfect mark.The eight clashes of the 2019 AFC Champions League Matchday Three West Zone take place on Monday and Tuesday with plenty to look forward to.

Group A

The cards in Group A were reshuffled after a Matchday Two which saw Al Wasl fall to a 5-0 drubbing by Al Zawraa in Karbala and Al Nassr stunned 3-2 by Zobahan in a ‘home’ encounter for the Saudis played in Dubai.

Al Zawraa, returning to the AFC Champions League after 12 years, are the only West Asian side yet to concede a goal in the competition so far. They travel to the Saudi capital Riyadh as group leaders facing bottom side Al Nassr who are without a point.

Second in the table on goal difference are Zobahan who play in Dubai for the second game in a row. This time, they are the away side against third-place Al Wasl.

The Emirati side had ended a seven-match winless run in the competition that dated all the way back to 2008 when they defeated Al Nassr 1-0 on the opening matchday. The heavy defeat against Al Zawraa in Matchday Two left them reeling, but the home clash against Zobahan offers Al Wasl the chance to stay at the heart of the qualification race.

Al Wasl (UAE) vs Zobahan (IRN)

Venue: Zabeel Stadium, Dubai

Kick-off: April 8, 19:40 UTC+4:00

 

Al Nassr (KSA) vs Al Zawraa (IRQ)

Venue: King Fahd International Stadium, Riyadh

Kick-off: April 8, 20:15 UTC+3:00

 

Group B

All four teams are level on three points after two matchdays, and three of them also have the same goal-difference of +1, while Al Rayyan occupy the final spot with a goal-difference of -3.

The Qatari side recovered from an abysmal performance in Jeddah that saw them lose 5-1 to Al Ittihad in Matchday One. Goals from Lucca Borges and Gelmin Rivas earned them a 2-1 home win against PFC Lokomotiv in their second game.

Al Rayyan host Al Wahda on Tuesday. The Emiratis return to the competition having lost the League Cup final, which was their last hope of domestic silverware this season. Henk ten Cate’s men will now be fully focused on the continental campaign as they sit sixth in the UAE Pro League table, 16 points adrift of the top spot.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad, on the other side, have a lot to worry about domestically ahead of their home clash against Lokomotiv. The two-time AFC Champions League winners are facing a real possibility of being relegated from the Saudi Pro League for the first time in their history.

The Jeddah-based side are five points adrift of the last safe position in the league and have also shown both the good and the bad side of their form continentally, thrashing Al Rayyan 5-1 then losing to Al Wahda 4-1.

Al Rayyan (QAT) vs Al Wahda (UAE)

Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha

Kick-off: April 9, 18:45 UTC+3

 

Al Ittihad (KSA) vs PFC Lokomotiv (UZB)

Venue: King Abdullah Sport City Stadium, Jeddah

Kick-off: April 9, 20:45 UTC+3

 

Group C

Three of the four teams in this group had been pitted together in Group D last year. Al Rayyan rather than Al Duhail competed against Al Hilal, Al Ain and Esteghlal in 2018 and it was the latter two who reached the knock-out stages.

This year, Al Hilal are the early frontrunners having won both their first two games. They end the first half of the group with an away trip to Doha, the adopted home of Esteghlal.

The Iranian giants reached the quarter-finals last time around, but they are now bottom of the group, having lost to Al Duhail 3-0 and drawn Al Ain 1-1 in Tehran. Esteghlal’s domestic season has been a disappointment as a 1-0 defeat in the derby against Persepolis last week left them in fourth place.

A repeat of last year’s Round-of-16 clash between Al Duhail and Al Ain is up on Monday. The Qataris had emerged 4-1 winners at home 11 months ago, but since then they have changed their manager twice and replaced three of their four foreign players.

Al Ain, on the other side, are yet to record a win in the 2019 AFC Champions League. They lost 1-0 at home to an Al Hilal side led by their former manager Zoran Mamic before clawing back to snatch a 1-1 draw against Esteghlal at Azadi Stadium.

Al Duhail (QAT) vs Al Ain (UAE)

Venue: Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium, Doha

Kick-off: April 8, 18:30 UTC+3

 

Esteghlal (IRN) vs Al Hilal (KSA)

Venue: Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium, Doha

Kick-off: April 8, 20:00 UTC+3

 

Group D

Marat Bikmaev scored the two goals that helped Pakhtakor claim the summit of Group D, drawing Persepolis 1-1 and beating Al Ahli 1-0.

The Uzbek side end the first half of the group with tricky home affair against 2018 semi-finalists Al Sadd, who will be in a buoyant mood, having just been crowned Qatar Stars League champions for the first time since 2013.

In Dubai’s Zabeel Stadium, Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis play hosts to Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia. Jorge Fossati’s men impressed in a 2-0 win over his former employers Al Sadd in Matchday One, but they then fell to a 1-0 defeat to Pakhtakor in Tashkent. A win against Persepolis could send them to the top of the group.

Branko Ivankovic’s side went all the way to the final last year, but they are yet to taste victory in the 2019 edition. Another defeat could further complicate their position in the group as they sit bottom with a single point.

FC Pakhtakor (UZB) vs Al Sadd (QAT)

Venue: Pakhtakor Central Stadium, Tashkent

Kick-off: April 9, 19:00 UTC+5

 

Persepolis (IRN) vs Al Ahli (KSA)

Venue: Zabeel Stadium, Dubai

Kick-off: April 9, 19:30 UTC+4