Preview - Round of 16 2nd Leg: Al Hilal SFC (4) v (2) Al Ahli Saudi FC
Riyadh: Al Ahli will have a mountain to climb in the second leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League as they look to overturn a 4-2 defeat against rivals Al Hilal at King Saudi University Stadium on Tuesday.
Omar Al Somah scored his tenth goal against Al Hilal in all competitions and Djaniny added Al Ahli’s second goal before the break, but a Bafetimbi Gomis hat-trick and a late strike from Abdullah Al Hafith put Al Hilal in the driving seat ahead of Tuesday’s return leg.
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Chasing a seventh appearance in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals, Al Hilal are boosted by the return of midfielder Salman Al Faraj from a long injury layoff.
Meanwhile, the game comes too soon for right-back Mohammed Al Braik who continues to recover from a knee injury.
Al Hilal proved a difficult side to break at home, especially in the AFC Champions League knockout stages, where they are unbeaten in their last 10 home games, keeping a clean sheet in seven of them.
Coach Razvan Lucescu’s side will also feel confident facing an Al Ahli side that have lost their last four Continental matches on the road.
Coach Branko Ivankovic is pursuing a last-eight place for the third year running, having helped Persepolis reach the semi-finals in 2017 and the final in 2018.
The Croat has his work cut out of him as multiple members of the squad struggle with injuries; centre-back Mohammed Al Fatil, right-back Saeed Al Muallad and winger Abdulfattah Asiri all suffered knocks in the first leg and are doubts for Tuesday.
If Al Ahli are to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in their history, the Jeddah side need to break their worst-ever winless run in the AFC Champions League knockout stage, having lost three and drawn two of their last five.
The prospect of a mouth-watering all-Saudi quarter-final depends on whether Al Ittihad can overcome Zobahan on Monday to face one of their two arch-rivals Al Ahli or Al Hilal.
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