Preview - Round of 16 1st Leg: Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA) vs Al Hilal SFC (KSA)
Jeddah: With three of the last four Saudi Pro League titles shared between them, domestic rivals Al Ahli and Al Hilal lock horns at King Abdullah Sport City in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.
Al Ahli finished second behind Al Sadd in Group D, while Al Hilal topped Group C to set up the first AFC Champions League clash between the two sides and the fourth all-Saudi Round-of-16 tie in the competition’s history.
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When Tuesday’s opponents met in April 2016 for the league decider, it was a brace from Syrian striker Omar Al Somah that earned Al Ahli a 3-1 win and their first title in 32 years.
The 30-year-old continues to carry Al Ahli’s hopes on his shoulders; having scored six of his team’s seven goals in the 2019 AFC Champions League (86%) – the highest ratio of team goals for any player in the competition this year.
Beaten finalists in 2012, Al Ahli are in the knockout stage for the fifth time in their history and the second in a row. Last year, they were eliminated in the Round of 16 after losing to Al Sadd 2-1 in Doha and drawing 2-2 in Jeddah.
Al Hilal, on the other side, are level with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors for the most AFC Champions League knock-out stage appearances (11). They are also the only side to have reached the final twice without winning the title. In 2014 they were beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers and three years later they lost to Urawa Red Diamonds.
Newly appointed coach Razvan Lucescu is expected to continue relying on attacking duo Bafetimbi Gomis and Sebastian Giovinco, who between them scored half of the team’s 10 goals in the group stage. At the back, Korean defensive midfielder Jang Hyun-soo was recruited in the summer to add stability to the side.
For Al Ahli coach Branko Ivankovic, Tuesday’s fixture - his first competitive match in his new post - is an opportunity to avenge the 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final, which his Persepolis side lost to Al Hilal 6-2 on aggregate.
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