September 28 – The AFC Champions League has reached the quarter final stage in the West Zone with Al Nassr drawn against Al Ahli Saudi FC in an all-Saudi Arabia tie while Iranian giants Persepolis face Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in the other quarter final.
The AFC Champions League is played in two halves with the winners of the West and East zones eventually meeting in the final.
The West zone matches have been centralised in Qatar with the quarter-finals both to be played at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Wednesday, with Saturday’s semi-final also to be played at the same venue.
Abderrazak Hamdallah’s sixth goal of the campaign saw Group D winners Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia edge domestic rivals Al Taawoun 1-0 in their Round of 16 tie on Sunday, setting up another domestic rival in Al Ahli.
“It will be a difficult game; we know that because we played against Al Ahli in the Saudi Pro League and we know their qualities,” said Al Nassr head coach Rui Vitoria. We are ready for the game. Both teams want to win, and I think it will be a very interesting game. We look forward to this type of games.”
Al Ahli Saudi, who finished top of Group A, advanced to the quarter-finals after defeating UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 4-3 on penalties, with the Round of 16 match having ended 1-1 after extra-time on Saturday.
Persepolis, who topped Group C, sealed their quarter-final berth in dramatic fashion on Sunday with Isa Al Kasir scoring an 88th minute winner against Qatar’s Al Sadd SC in their last 16 tie.
“Coming to the draw ceremony we knew it wasn’t going to make a big difference for us, because here there are four strong teams,” said Persepolis team manager Mohammad Ali Peyrovani. “Our target is to be champions of Asia, so if we want to be champions, we cannot worry about which team we will face next.
They will meet Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor, in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009, having defeated Iran’s Esteghlal 2-1.
“All three teams would have been difficult opponents,” said Pakhtakor assistant coach Pieter Huistra. “Persepolis are a great team and we know them quite well because we faced them last year in the group stage and they are champions of IR Iran, so we have to be ready and have to be in good shape but we are confident…
“They had four clean sheets and we had three clean sheets, so I think we are similar teams. Everything is possible in this game.”
None of the four West Zone quarter-finalists have won the AFC Champions League before, with Al Ahli Saudi and Persepolis finishing runners-up in 2012 and 2018 respectively.
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