0609 GMT January 18, 2020
The 2019 ACL group stage enters the decisive phase with eight matches taking place across West Asia today and tomorrow, the-afc.com reported.
Having crossed the halfway line of the group stage, Matchday Four sees the sides that faced off two weeks ago trading places with the reverse encounters kicking off the second half of Groups A to D in West Asia.
Competition is heating up in Group A with just four points separating leader Zob Ahan and bottom-placed Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi side shuffled the deck on Matchday Three after ending its run of two defeats with an emphatic 4-1 victory against previously unbeaten Al Zawraa of Iraq in Riyadh.
The two sides face off again on Tuesday, this time in Karbala where Al Zawraa had beaten Al Wasl 5-0 in their first home match, propelled by a Group A record crowd of 27,000 fans.
The only side yet to lose a game in this group, Zob Ahan looks to confirm its place at the top of the group and edge ever closer to booking a knockout spot for the third time in four years when it hosts Al Wasl on Tuesday.
The reverse fixture two weeks ago saw the Iranian side come from a goal behind to overcome Al Wasl 3-1 in Dubai. A third consecutive defeat for the Emiratis will put their chances of progression in tatters.
Zob Ahan vs. Al Wasl
Venue: Foolad Shahr Stadium, Isfahan (Iran)
Kickoff: April 23, 20:00 UTC+4:30
Al Zawraa vs. Al Nassr
Venue: Karbala Sports City, Karbala (Iraq)
Kickoff: April 23, 18:00 UTC+3:00
After three matches for each team, Group B is yet to witness a single draw. In fact, every match in this group has seen at least two goals.
The UAE’s Al Wahda and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad stand out with six points each, the Emiratis lead the group by virtue of a superior head-to-head record, having defeated their rival 4-1 on Matchday Two.
Coach Henk ten Cate’s men continue their march towards maintaining the top spot as they welcome Qatar’s Al Rayyan to Abu Dhabi. Al Wahda had edged its opponent in the reverse fixture two weeks ago thanks to an added time penalty scored by Leonardo.
Two-time ACL winner Al Ittihad also needed a penalty in added time to overcome Uzbekistan’s PFC Lokomotiv 3-2 in Jeddah.
The two sides lock horns again today in Tashkent where Lokomotiv had won its first game of the campaign 2-0 against Al Wahda, the Uzbek side’s only win so far.
Al Wahda vs. Al Rayyan
Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi (UAE)
Kickoff: April 22, 19:20 UTC+3
PFC Lokomotiv vs. Al Ittihad
Venue: Lokomotiv Stadium, Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
Kickoff: April 22, 18:00 UTC+5
After convincingly winning its first two games of the group, Al Hilal succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Esteghlal on Matchday Three. The Saudi side, however, remains top of Group C with six points.
Esteghlal, meanwhile, moved into the heart of competition for the two Round-of-16 places with the win in Doha, having collected just one point from its first two matches. A win against Al Hilal in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday could see it topple the Saudis from the top spot.
Matchday Three saw the UAE’s Al Ain come from two goals down to rescue a point against Qatar’s Al Duhail in Doha. The Emirati side will be encouraged by the result as it looks to get a first win against its rival, having lost to it twice in the 2018 Round of 16.
Under coach Rui Faria, Al Duhail has delivered mixed results, losing its previous away match to Al Hilal 3-1 but staying unbeaten on home soil. Getting the three points at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday can send the side to the top of the group, depending on the other result.
Al Ain vs. Al Duhail
Venue: Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain (UAE)
Kickoff: April 23, 20:00 UTC+4
Al Hilal vs. Esteghlal
Venue: Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi (UAE)
Kickoff: April 23, 19:00 UTC+4
Perhaps the most closely contested group of the eight, only two points separate table topper Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and bottom-placed Al Ahli going into Matchday Four.
Al Ahli failed to score and fell to defeat on the road for the second game running, to freeze at three points after its opening day home victory over Al Sadd of Qatar. It plays host to Persepolis in Dubai today.
Persepolis had won the reverse fixture in the same city two weeks ago, thanks to goals from Shoja Khalilzadeh and Ali Alipour.
Unbeaten so far, Pakhtakor sits top of the group with five points ahead of the trip to Doha where it faces Al Sadd today. The two sides had shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw on Matchday Three in Tashkent.
Al Sadd vs. FC Pakhtakor
Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha (Qatar)
Kickoff: April 22, 19:00 UTC+3
Al Ahli vs. Persepolis
Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai (UAE)
Kickoff: April 22, 19:30 UTC+4