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Preview - Group D: Foolad Khouzestan, Al Sadd in challenge to stay on course in AFC Champions League

Riyadh: Foolad Khouzestan FC and Al Sadd SC will face off in a vital Matchday Five clash on Monday, with defeat not an option for either side in the race to win top spot in Group D of the 2021 AFC Champions League. 

Back-to-back wins for Al Sadd against Jordan's Al Wehdat saw the Qataris jump up to second place in Group D with seven points, one adrift of leaders Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia.

Islamic Republic of Iran's Foolad are third on five points and need to win their final two matches to stand a chance of advancing.

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Foolad's return to the AFC Champions League began against Al Sadd and the Iranians were seconds away from a memorable win, only to concede in the final minute for a share of the points. That was followed by a 1-0 win against Al Wehdat and a 1-1 draw with Al Nassr.

The rematch against Al Nassr, however, didn't go according to plan as Foolad fell 2-0 and head coach Jesus Javier Noble will urge his team to reproduce Matchday One form when they face Al Sadd again to ensure they remain within sight of the making the Round of 16 for the first time since 2014.

"Tomorrow's match is very important, and it will be decisive for both teams, and will be like the final for us," said Javier Noble. "The winners tomorrow will get closer to qualifying from the group

"Al Sadd are a strong team, and they have many good international players with a lot of international experience in big competitions. They have a very good coach, but we will not give up and will make things difficult for them.

"We have shown that we are not less than other teams in the group, and we can compete, I am proud of my players, although they need more experience at this level.

"We are playing for our club and our fans, and all the fans in Iran, we will concentrate to play well and produce our best, a draw may be good for Al Sadd, but not for us."

2021 AFC Champions League: Al Sadd SC 1-1 Foolad Khouzestan FC

Al Sadd have done well to remain in contention after a slow start which saw them draw with Foolad and suffer a humbling 3-1 defeat to Al Nassr.

The 15-time Qatar Stars League champions defeated Al Wehdat 3-1 and 2-0 to pull themselves back into contention but face a tough test against Foolad.

The Doha-based club have made it past the group stage in their past six appearances in the tournament, and head coach Xavi will demand their best against Foolad, with Al Nassr to come on the final Matchday.

"It will be another tough game again with Foolad, because we've already faced them," said Xavi. "We suffered in the first match of the competition. They're a good team, well organised and aggressive in defence. They know how to take advantage of set-pieces, so it will be difficult. 

"We are ready to compete, and from my point of view, this will be like the final, because if we have the three points, we will be really close to qualifying. 

"We are excited and motivated to win against this team. Everything depends on us, it’s in our hands. We have to play with spirit, ambition and passion, especially against Iranian teams. We need to keep focused with a good mentality to get the three points tomorrow."

Foolad Khouzestan FC (IRN) v Al Sadd SC (QAT)
Venue: Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, Riyadh
Kick-off: 21:00 hours (UTC+3)

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