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AFC Champions League (West) Semi-final: Midfield Maestros

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

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

Having compared defenders Maicon of Al Nassr and Persepolis’ Hossein Kanaani, our attention turns to two men creating magic from midfield.

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Khalid Al Ghannam - Al Nassr

When Al Nassr took on Real Madrid at the 2000 FIFA Club World Cup as AFC representatives in the inaugural edition of the competition, Khalid Al Ghannam had not been born.

Yet, the 19-year-old winger is now one of the key stars the Riyadh-based side are counting on to drive them to the summit of the continent once more.

A pacey winger, combining trickery and vision, Al Ghannam rose to prominence after scoring in the semi-final and the final of the 2018 AFC U19 Championship as Saudi Arabia were crowned continental champions at that age group. At the start of 2020, Al Ghannam swapped Al Qadisiyah for Al Nassr and instantly worked his way into coach Rui Vitoria’s starting XI.

On Wednesday, Al Ghannam set up Pity Martinez for Al Nassr’s opening goal against Al Ahli in the quarter-final. That was his third chance created in the competition.

The move followed a trademark dribbling move, one of 19 successful dribbles he made; the highest at Al Nassr and third-highest in the entire competition. Al Ghannam’s 47 duels won is also top of the charts for his club and fourth in the 2020 AFC Champions League.

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

Vahid Amiri - Persepolis

Of the 11 players who started Persepolis’ 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final encounter against Al Hilal, only four remain in the side set to face Al Nassr at the same stage on Saturday; one of them is 32-year-old versatile midfielder Vahid Amiri who had left the club for a spell at Turkish side Trabzonspor before rejoining the Iranian capital team in July 2019.

Naturally a left-winger, Amiri has mostly been deployed in a more central role in the 2020 AFC Champions League, with Ehsan Pahlavan taking the wide spot. From his new position, Amiri scored in the 4-0 win against Sharjah on Matchday Six of the group stage.

Amiri completed more dribbles (19) than any other Persepolis player and completed more passes in opposition half than all but three players in the entire competition.

The midfielder’s contribution to Persepolis' overall play is not restricted to the attacking side. Amiri’s 11 tackles are the highest amongst Persepolis midfielders, and only centre-back Shojae Khalilzadeh made more tackles. His 39 recoveries are also top for midfielders and just like tackles, second only to Khalilzadeh.

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

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