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ACL2020 – How it stands: Group B

Doha: The 2020 AFC Champions League Group B gets back underway on Monday with two Matchday Three encounters; Shabab Al Ahli Dubai FC play Shahr Khodro FC while reigning champions Al Hilal SFC face Pakhtakor FC.

After each of the group teams played two games back in February, Al Hilal and Pakhtakor hold a relative, yet early advantage, with both having collected six points from their opening fixtures.

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Al Hilal got their title defence underway in style, registering a convincing 2-0 win over debutants Shahr Khodro. Andre Carillo opened the scoring for the Blues, while last year’s top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis broke his 2020 AFC Champions League scoring duck to secure the victory.

The Frenchman was at his clinical best as head coach Razvan Lucescu’s men came from behind to down Shabab Al Ahli 2-1 on Matchday Two. The Dubai side took the lead through Youssef Jaber but Gomis struck either side of the half-time break to send Al Hilal into the forced COVID-19 break with full marks.

In turn, Pakhtakor’s pursuit of a first knock-out-stage appearance since 2010 started with a 2-1 home victory over Shabab Al Ahli in rain-soaked Tashkent. Winger Jaloliddin Masharipov’s wonder strike was cancelled by Pedro Conde’s tap-in after the break, but veteran Dragan Ceran sealed the three points for the Uzbeks minutes later.

Pakhtakor then demonstrated their prowess with a 3-0 triumph over Shahr Khodro with an Igor Sergeev brace and a late Sherzod Azamov header taking them to six points.

On Monday, at least one of Al Hilal and Pakhtakor will drop points for the first time as they clash at Al Janoub Stadium, while at least one of Shabab Al Ahli and Shahr Khodro will get off the mark on the same day in the earlier match at the same ground.

And by the time the following weekend rolls over, the group table might look very different to how it currently does. But should Al Hilal and Pakhtakor exchange victories in their Matchday Three and Matchday Four encounters, the task could become more difficult for Shabab Al Ahli and Shahr Khodro, especially if neither of them walks away with all six points on September Monday and Thursday.

Who will advance to the knockout stage from Group B? Poll ends at 22:00 (UTC +8) on September 14.

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