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Lucescu calls for Al Hilal intensity ahead of AFC Champions League encounter with Shahr Khodro

Doha: Al Hilal head coach Razvan Lucescu challenged his players to maintain their intensity ahead of their Matchday Five encounter against Shahr Khodro FC who sit bottom of the 2020 AFC Champions League Group B.

Islamic Republic of Iran’s Shahr Khodro have been eliminated early on in their maiden appearance in the competition after suffering four consecutive defeats, while Al Hilal, the reigning continental champions, are just a win away from joining domestic rivals Al Ahli and Al Nassr in the round of 16.

Al Hilal coach Razvan Lucescu’s biggest challenge will be selection, although AFC have approved the registration of two goalkeepers in response to a crisis that has seen the squad severely trimmed due to several players testing positive for COVID-19. Abdullah Al Bishi and Ahmad Al Jubaya have come in to replace Mohammed Al Wakid and Nawaf Al Ghamdi.

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“We have to keep going with the same intensity, we have a huge shot at qualification, but the job is not done yet, and we also want to top our group,” said Lucescu.

“The changes we have made to our line-up have forced us to play in a way different from the one we are used to. We like to control possession and attack to create as many chances, but in the last game we were forced to sit back and hit on the break when we got the ball.

“The current predicament we are facing will not allow us to rest the players that have given a great deal of effort in the past two games, whoever is up for the challenge ahead will play.”

While Al Hilal have it all to play for on Sunday, their opponents are eyeing more long-term benefits as they hope their first experience of continental football will help them when they return home at the end of the group stage.

“We are ready for tomorrow’s match, but we know we have missed our chance to qualify even if we win our final two games,” said Shahr Khodro assistant coach Mohammad Navazi.

“Luck was not on our side in the previous two games. We are now focusing on working for the future, and we must do our best against Al Hilal. We have a lot of young players, and this was our first ever AFC Champions League campaign so we are gaining a lot of experience which will help us in the Iran Pro League next season."

“The match against Al Hilal will be useful to us, and we will do our utmost in terms of effort to do well in it. The players will benefit from playing against the reigning champions.”

The last time the two teams met was on Matchday One back in February, when Al Hilal dominated proceedings and came out 2-0 winners at home courtesy of Andre Carillo’s deflected shot and Bafetimbi Gomis’ tap in.

Shahr Khodro FC (IRN) v Al Hilal SFC (KSA)
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium
Kick-off: September 20, 18:00 UTC+3

*Poll ends at 22:00 (UTC +8) on September 20.

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