AFC Cup Final: Five Facts and Figures
Kuala Lumpur: The 2017 AFC Cup champions will be crowned on Saturday evening after what promises to be a gripping finale between Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol and holders Air Force Club of Iraq.
With the clash now just a matter of hours away, the-AFC.com highlights five facts and figures from the tournament to date as the defending champions and the 2015 runners-up go head to head.
A daunting challenge
Istiklol remain unbeaten in the 2017 AFC Cup having won seven and drawn three of their 10 matches so far.
Game number 11 sees the visit of defending champions Air Force Club but, with the Tajik side boasting a perfect five wins from five in front of a hugely passionate home support, the Iraqi team may have to produce something special to retain their title.
Solid at the back
Air Force Club’s six clean sheets in 10 games is more than any other side in the competition, while they have also conceded just five goals.
The numbers offer an interesting contrast to their victorious 2016 campaign, when the Iraqi side netted a highly impressive 27, yet managed just three clean sheets in 12 games.
Istiklol defeat Ceres Negros 4-0 in the Inter-Zone semi-finals.
Only Ceres Negros can better Istiklol’s 23 goals, although the side from the Philippines played 12 matches (compared to Istiklol's 10) before being unceremoniously ousted 5-1 on aggregate by the Tajik team.
Up against the clean sheet kings Air Force Club, though, Istiklol will need their frontline to be at their best on Saturday.
Syrian advice required?
In two years of competing in the AFC Cup, Air Force Club have lost just two games out of a total of 22, which, despite being a strong record, offers hope to the hosts that they can be beaten.
The bad news, however, is that only Syria’s Al Wahda have found a way to do so, once in the 2016 group stage and then again in the first leg of the West Asia Zone final.
Istiklol captain Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev has claimed a tournament-leading seven assists and is out in front on number of chances created with a total of 34.
The creative hub of the Istiklol midfield is also second on number of crosses delivered into the penalty area from open play, meaning Air Force Club should avoid offering the 27-year-old any space in and around the box.