ACL2018 Round of 16 - Preview 1
Kuala Lumpur: The number of teams in the AFC Champions League has been reduced by half as just three weeks after the completion of the group stage, the remaining sides in the West Zone return for the first leg of the Round of 16 on Monday and Tuesday.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has three sides remaining in the competition, while the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have two and Saudi Arabia one. Inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain, 2010 winners Zobahan and the last team from the West to lift the trophy, Al Sadd, are among the line-up.
Al Jazira v Persepolis
After going on a 15-match winless run in the AFC Champions League, Al Jazira’s luck finally changed as they edged out Al Gharafa to finish second in Group A to return to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2014.
On Monday, the Emirati side face Persepolis, who were impressive in finishing on top of Group C after a Matchday Six victory over Al Sadd saw the Tehran team leapfrog the Qatari side into top spot to secure a first ever meeting with Al Jazira.
The Emirati club side lost their last game at home to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli although had already qualified for the last 16, while Persepolis have not conceded a goal since a Matchday Two defeat to Al Sadd in Qatar.
Al Jazira (UAE) v Persepolis (IRN)
Venue: Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: May 7, 19:30 UTC+4
Al Sadd v Al Ahli
The 2011 AFC Champions League winners Al Sadd and the 2012 runners-up Al Ahli go head to head in Doha on Monday as the two teams meet in the competition for a third time.
Al Sadd advanced to the knockout rounds with little fuss by winning four of their first five games in Group C, but failed to claim top spot after defeat to Persepolis on Matchday Six.
There were few problems for Al Ahli, too, as the Saudi side remained unbeaten, winning four and drawing two, to finish six points clear at the top of Group A to return to the last 16 for the second year in a row.
Al Sadd (QAT) v Al Ahli (KSA)
Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: May 7, 19:15 UTC+3
Zobahan (IRN) v Esteghlal (IRN)
An all-Iranian clash between two former continental champions takes place on Tuesday as 2010 champions Zobahan host two-time Asian Club Championship winners Esteghlal.
Zobahan advanced from Group B after a 1-1 draw with Lokomotiv on Matchday Six saw the Isfahan side finish above the Uzbek team due to a better head-to-head record.
Esteghlal, meanwhile, remain unbeaten in the competition and qualified from Group D with a game to spare to book a first AFC Champions League meeting with their domestic rivals.
Zobahan (IRN) v Esteghlal (IRN)
Venue: Foolad Shahr Stadium, Isfahan
Kick-off: May 8, 19:15 UTC+4:30
Al Ain v Al Duhail
Two unbeaten sides in Al Ain and Al Duhail will square off in Al Ain on Tuesday in what promises to be one of the most intriguing match-ups in the Round of 16.
Al Ain drew their first four Group D games but then won their final two as they produced when it mattered once more to return to the knockout rounds.
Al Duhail, meanwhile, were arguably the most impressive team of the group stage as the Qatari side won all six of their Group B games to storm into the last 16 with little fuss.
Ai Ain (UAE) v Al Duhail (QAT)
Venue: Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
Kick-off: May 8, 20:10 UTC+4