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ACL Champions League (West) Semi-final: Defensive Shields

Doha: The 2020 AFC Champions League (West) reaches its climax on Saturday as Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr and Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis FC lock horns at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium with a place in the final at stake.

Both sides qualified for the competition as champions of their domestic leagues and put in a series of impressive performances in Doha that brought them to within 90 minutes of the final.

Ahead of Saturday’s semi-final clash, takes a statistical look at key players for Al Nassr and Persepolis in defence, midfield and attack.

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Maicon - Al Nassr

Brazilian defender Maicon has been so impressive since his arrival at the Saudi capital on loan from Turkish side Galatasaray in February 2019 that Al Nassr swiftly moved to make the deal permanent after the end of his first season at the club, and the 31-year-old’s performances at the 2020 AFC Champions League have already justified the US$1.7 million outlay.

Having only been added to their continental squad before the resumption of the 2020 AFC Champions League in September, Al Nassr averaged 1.3 goals conceded in the three matches Maicon did not play, compared to just 0.2 goals conceded in the five he played, emphasising the magnificent influence of the number 18 for coach Rui Vitoria’s men.

On Saturday, Maicon faces his sternest test to date as he comes up against in-form Persepolis striker Ali Al Kasir, who has four goals to his name in his last three matches.

2020 AFC Champions League (West): Quarter-finals Review

Hossein Kanaani - Persepolis

A product of the Persepolis youth system, defender Kanaani had to wait until the age of 25 to make an impression at his boyhood club, having rejoined them in 2019, seven years after making his senior debut.

A period during which he built his reputation with several Iran Pro League sides and earned his first cap for Team Melli in 2015.

Capable of functioning as a right-back or at the heart of the defence, Kanaani was primarily used centrally under head coach Yahya Golmohammadi, replacing 38-year-old club captain Seyed Jalal Hosseini and slotting in seamlessly beside Shojae Khalilzadeh.

No Persepolis player made more interceptions in the 2020 AFC Champions League than Kanaani’s 12, and the number six showed excellent vision in helping the team's build-up play with 49 passes ending into the final third, including his pass that found Siamak Nemati on the right flank allowing him to cross for Al Kasir’s first goal against Pakhtakor on Wednesday.

Facing the competition’s top scorer Abderazzak Hamdallah on Saturday, Persepolis will be hoping Kanaani can continue the type of defensive contribution that meant they conceded 0.5 goal per match in games he started compared to one goal per game in his absence.

Poll ends at 23:00 (UTC +8) on October 3.

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