Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal against Persepolis is a clash between two of West Asia’s biggest clubs and the 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final is the perfect stage to see which of these giants will come out on top.
Having looked at the key men for Tehran’s Persepolis yesterday, we now turn to the Saudi heavyweights to analyse a Brazilian on a hot streak, an expert marksman and a multi-tooled midfielder talent.
After his match-winning hat-trick last week against Al Ain, it’s hard not to lead off with Al Hilal’s Brazilian attacker Carlos Eduardo.
The former Porto and OGC Nice man joined the Riyadh side in the summer of 2015 and has already fast become a legend at Al Hilal.
Four goals in four games in his debut continental campaign was impressive, although 2017 has been even better after he rebounded from a poor 2016 to net seven times so far.
Carlos Eduardo has proved to be the consummate all-rounder in this year’s AFC Champions League.
He is in the top three for duels won (76), top three for chances created (18), boasts a 50 percent shooting accuracy, as well as a very respectable 80 percent passing accuracy, 79 percent when in an opponents' half.
It is no wonder then, that he will be the player Al Hilal turn to, more than any other, against Persepolis next week.
The only Al Hilal player with a better shooting accuracy in the 2017 AFC Champions League than Carlos Eduardo is Syria striker Omar Khribin.
Indeed, among players who have played all 10 fixtures and had at least 10 shots, Khribin (53 percent) is the most accurate hitman on the continental club scene this year.
The 23-year-old Syrian had enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at the Riyadh club earlier this year, before he made the move permanent this summer from Emirati side Al Dhafra.
Played up front with Nawaf Al Abid and Carlos Eduardo just behind him, Khribin has netted four times so far in his 10 tournament appearances.
Standing over 1.8 metres tall, it is no surprise that the man from Damascus is a considerable threat in the air and boasts second most headed shots (8) and most on target (5).
When Al Hilal signed Nicolas Milesi from Uruguay’s Danubio last summer, they gave their midfield an instant upgrade.
Milesi has been outstanding in the centre of field for the Riyadh club and the statistics emphasise just how much of a difference-maker he is going forward and breaking up play.
Of all the semi-final teams, the Uruguayan has the second highest tackles won rating (19), the third highest passing accuracy (87 percent) of which he has the second highest accuracy in opponents’ half of the pitch (85 percent).
His duels won tally (54) is good enough to be in the top eight, while he is the sixth highest in terms of chances created (14).
Milesi has already won one Toyota Player of the Week award this campaign so far, and – if he keeps up this form – it wouldn’t be a surprise if he adds another before the tournament’s conclusion.