Sharjah bent on widening lead in AFC Champions League tie against Pakhtakor

The UAE side have yet to lose a game or concede a goal, having started their campaign with a 1-0 victory against Air Force Club, courtesy of a second-half strike from Khalid Bawazir, then settled for a goalless draw against Tractor FC to collect four points.

Having appeared in two previous editions of the AFC Champions League, Sharjah have never faced Uzbek opponents, but do boast in their ranks' knowledge of the opposition in the form of 24-year-old midfield enforcer Otabek Shukurov, an Uzbek international who previously represented Pakhtakor’s domestic rivals Bunyodkor for three years.

“Our preparations are going well, and the players are ready. We hope to continue to play well and that luck is on our side," said Sharjah head coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari.

Abdulaziz Al Anbari - AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2021 - Post Match

"The matter of scoring is not an easy challenge. We miss Welliton who was injured before the competition and could not join us here, but we have a good system in place and our team work is good.

"We are creating chances as you have seen in the previous game but were unlucky and the opposition goalkeeper was very good. We are working on retaining possession for longer periods and through team work, we will be able to get past this challenge," said Al Anbari.

"We watched Pakhtakor. I know them well, they are perennial contenders in the ACL. We are also a good team and are in form, we just need to continue doing well. They depend on teamwork just like us, so I am expecting an exciting and very competitive match.

"Al Hasan Saleh is back training with the group since yesterday, if not this game, he will be back for the next game. We will receive an update on Igor Coronado today, but he should also be available for the following game.”

Head coach Pieter Huistra took over at Pakhtakor having been assistant to Shota Arveladze in the 2020 AFC Champions League where they reached the quarter-finals, but if the Dutchman is to better his successor’s achievement, the Uzbek side will need to get their first win of the campaign sooner rather than later.

Pakhtakor came from behind to earn a 3-3 draw against Tractor on Matchday One but were more conservative three days later as they played out a goalless tie against Air Force Club, leaving them with two points from as many games.

Pieter Huistra-Pakhtakor

“The next two matches will be against the same team in three days. It’s always a strange feeling but also interesting, because between the first and second game a lot can happen and you learn a lot of things from the first match," said Huistra.

"Sharjah are a good team with good players, they have the advantage in the group at the moment with four points. We will try to prepare ourselves as good as possible. We played two highly contested matches. We have to make sure our players are fresh, prepared and motivated. I’m looking forward to these two games."

"We have to grow into this tournament. What we want to achieve is to play the next game better. If we can keep improving, I’m quite convinced that we will be challenging for one of the spots to go to the next round.

"Playing every three days is one of the challenges for us as coaches. To prepare the players for every game but also to get them to recover on time, the real challenge is after game four or five. They have to feel fresh and mentally strong, so it is a challenge.

"With Ramadan you have an extra dimension to the whole situation. It is a very interesting period to live in and to perform. I have a lot of knowledge in the team around me and they are doing a very good job.”

Sharjah (UAE) v Pakhtakor (UZB)
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah
Kick-off: 22:00 hours (UTC+4)

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