Preview - Quarter-final: Al Ittihad (KSA) v Al Hilal SFC (KSA)
Jeddah: Many similarities but a world of contrasts separate Al Ittihad and Al Hilal as the former play hosts in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
The two sides boast a proud tradition in Asian football, with nine continental titles and 18 appearances in the AFC Champions League knock-out stage between them. Nevertheless, Tuesday marks only the second time Al Ittihad and Al Hilal have met in the competition - the first being Al Ittihad's 3-1 win in the 2011 Round of 16.
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The 2018-19 season could not have been more contrasting for the two rivals. An unprecedentedly disappointing campaign for Al Ittihad ended on a relative high as they survived what would have been a first relegation in their history. While in Riyadh, Al Hilal looked destined for Saudi Pro League glory before slipping in the final miles and surrendering the title to rivals Al Nassr.
Last week, both teams started their domestic season with a win, before turning their attention to Tuesday’s quarter-final - a third appearance at this stage for Al Hilal in the past five years and a first for the hosts since 2014.
Since the re-appointment of coach Jose Luis Sierra, Al Ittihad got back their attacking style, cruising to the 2019 AFC Champions League knock-out stage with 13 goals scored. A record only Al Wahda bettered in the group stage. They then brushed aside Zobahan in the round of 16, winning the two ties 2-1 and 4-3.
On the other side, coach Razvan Lucescu is still feeing his way around the King Saud University Stadium, where he has been at the helm for two months. The early signs, however, have been positive with a 4-3 aggregate win over Al Ahli sending them through to the Continental quarter-final.
Ones To Watch:
With five goals to his name this campaign, Brazilian striker Romarinho stands out as the danger man for the two-time AFC Champions League winners. The former El Jaish and Al Jazira forward has scored 18 goals in the competition over five seasons, more than any other player present at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium on Tuesday.
In turn, Al Hilal’s Bafetimbi Gomis’ seven goals make him the top scorer amongst players still active in the competition. The Frenchman had established himself as a fan favourite in his first season in Riaydh with 21 goals in 30 league appearances and is now looking to guide them to that ever-elusive AFC Champions League title.
Al Ittihad vs Al Hilal SFC
Venue: King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah
Kick-off: August 27, 20:45 UTC+3
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