Muscat: Al Hilal will look to confirm their place in the 2017 AFC Champions League final when they take on Persepolis in the second leg of the semi-final on Tuesday after posting a 4-0 victory in the first leg three weeks ago.
Omar Khribin’s hat-trick in Abu Dhabi helped put the Saudi Arabian side well on their way to a second final in four years and leaves their Iranian opponents with a mountain to climb at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.
Persepolis’ first appearance in the AFC Champions League semi-finals could not have gone any worse and means they now need to record their biggest win ever in the competition in order to advance.
Trailing 2-0 at the break in the first leg, the Tehran club were handed a lifeline early in the second half when Abdullah Otayf was sent off, but they then proceeded to concede two more and are now staring elimination firmly in the face.
Without their leading scorer Mehdi Taremi, Persepolis need the rest of their frontline to step forward and the striker’s direct replacement, Godwin Mensha, will hope to add to the two goals he scored against Al Ahli in the last round.
No other Persepolis player has scored more than a single goal in the competition, but the attack-minded trio of Mohsen Mosalman, Vahid Amiri and Ali Alipour are all capable of finding the back of the net and will need to do exactly that if the Iranian team are to have any chance of making the final.
Al Hilal remain the only unbeaten team in this year’s competition and, after their 3-0 victory over Al Ain in the second leg of the quarter-finals, have now netted seven without reply in their past two games.
Syrian striker Khribin opened the scoring in Abu Dhabi, before a rare goal from Yasser Al Shahrani put Al Hilal two up at the interval. Otayf was then dismissed for a second bookable offence, but Khribin added a brace in what proved a thoroughly convincing win.
Khribin has been in fine form for both club and country of late and seven goals on the continent leaves him just two adrift of the tournament’s leading scorer, Hulk, but Al Hilal boast plenty of attacking options elsewhere.
Carlos Eduardo also sits on seven goals after the Brazilian registered a treble against Al Ain, while Nawaf Al Abed always poses a threat and Salem Al Dawsari was outstanding in the first leg in claiming two assists.
Persepolis v Al Hilal Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat Kick-off: October 17, 20:00 UTC+4