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No relaxing, warns Arveladze as Pakhtakor brace for Shahr Khodro test in AFC Champions League

Doha: A place in the 2020 AFC Champions League knockout stage for the first time in a decade is at stake for Pakhtakor FC on Wednesday when they take on already-eliminated Shahr Khodro on Matchday Six of Group B.

A bright start to the 2020 AFC Champions League campaign saw Pakhtakor pick up full points from their first two matches back in February, but since the resumption of the competition in Qatar, coach Shota Arveladze’s men only added two more points from their subsequent three games, meaning they go into their final encounter in need of three points to advance to the next round.

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“This is match is definitely like a final for us,” said Arveladze, a former striker for the likes of Ajax and Rangers and Georgia’s all-time top scorer.

“We played against Shahr Khodro and we saw each other play twice here in Qatar, so there are no surprises. For them this is about keeping their prestige. I know the character of Iranian players and how they fight, while for us it is about whether we continue in the competition or not."

“We cannot relax against Shahr Khodro. Even if they did not win any games in this competition yet, their statistics are good and even in the last game against Al Hilal, they had already been eliminated, but they put in a fight and played really well to get a point.”

A first-ever AFC Champions League campaign for Shahr Khodro was always going to be a tough one, and the Islamic Republic of Iran side were finally able to pick-up their first point on Matchday Five against a depleted Al Hilal side, having lost their first four games, including a 3-0 defeat by Pakhtakor on Matchday Two.

“Tomorrow is an important game for us, probably harder than the previous games,” said 24-year-old forward Hossein Mehraban who has spent his entire career in his hometown club Shahr Khodro.

“But I hope we can put in a good display. We do not have hopes of qualification now, but we must show we are a good team and can get a result against Pakhtakor tomorrow."

“Personally, playing in the AFC Champions League is a very good experience for me. I played in the U16 and U17 IR Iran national teams, but to play in the a competition of the size of the AFC Champions League is a very good experience. I hope this is not the last time we are here, and I hope we can do well against Pakhtakor in the next game.”

A win in the final match will secure a place in the next stage for Pakhtakor, but they could also qualify with a draw or even a defeat, provided they match or better Shabab Al Ahli Dubai’s result against Al Hilal in the other Wednesday encounter in the group.

Al Hilal SFC (KSA) v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE)
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium
Kick-off: September 23, 21:00 UTC+3

*Poll ends at 02:00 (UTC +8) on September 24.

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