News ID: 239045
Published: 0311 GMT February 18, 2019

Iranian clubs taking on Qataris with ACL spots at stake

Iranian clubs taking on Qataris with ACL spots at stake

Qatar’s Al Gharafa welcomes Iranian side Zob Ahan to Thani bin Jassim Stadium in the 2019 AFC Champions League Playoff round on Tuesday with both sides seeking a place in the group stage.

After finishing fourth in the Qatar Stars League last year, Al Gharafa currently languishs in the bottom half of the table after defeat to Umm Salal last week, and it will be without injured Dutchman Wesley Sneijder for the clash, reported.

The Doha team has qualified for the competition eight times, with a quarterfinal appearance in 2010 its best performance, while it also reached the last 16 in 2013.

Last year Al Gharafa was unlucky to be eliminated at the group stage by virtue of an inferior head-to-head record against the UAE's Al Jazira.

Zob Ahan finished the 2017-18 Iranian Persian Gulf Pro League season as runner-up but is enduring a miserable campaign this time round, sitting dangerously near the relegation zone having not won a game since August. Ali Mansourian’s men needed extra time to overcome Kuwait SC 1-0 in Preliminary Stage 2.

The Isfahan side’s best performance on the continent was when it finished as runner-up to Korea Republic’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in 2010, while it has also reached the knockout rounds in two of the past three seasons.

Elsewhere, Qatar’s Al Rayyan and Iran’s Saipa will square off in the playoffs at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, eager to seal a place in the group stage.

Al Rayyan has made eight appearances in the competition but has yet to make it beyond the group stage and suffered a familiar fate in 2018 despite being unbeaten and in a strong position after its first four games.

Domestically, the Qatari club sits third in the Qatar Stars League after a 3-1 victory over Al Arabi on Thursday, but it remains some distance behind the front two of Al Sadd and Al Duhail.

Saipa, meanwhile, has only once qualified for the continental competition, back in 2008 when it reached the quarterfinals before defeat to a Bunyodkor side that featured Brazilian FIFA World Cup winner Rivaldo.

After overcoming India’s Minerva Punjab 4-0 in Preliminary Stage 2, Ali Daei’s team – who has not won in the Iranian Pro League since September – is now just one match away from lining up alongside the continent’s elite once more.


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