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Vote for your best ACL2017 Team: Defenders

Kuala Lumpur: With the 2020 AFC Champions League currently on hiatus, continues its series of articles to determine your best sides from the last four editions of the Continental competition.

Last week we presented the candidates for the 2017 edition's best goalkeeper, and now it's time to turn our attention to defenders.

So, here are 14 players in contention for the four places in the backline. Review the nominees and then choose your favourite defenders for this all-star XI in the respective polls.

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Mohammed Al BuraykAl Hilal

  • 16 chances created (#1 by a defender)
  • 4 assists (#1 by a defender)
  • 91% tackle success rate

A bundle of energy down the right flank, Al Burayk was as important in an attacking sense as he was defensively for Al Hilal. Four assists – including one in the semi-final against Persepolis – was more than any other defender, while 16 chances created ensured the Saudi international was also out in front in that department.

Sadegh MoharramiPersepolis

  • Won 23 tackles (#1 by a defender)
  • 38 dribbles completed (#1 by a defender)
  • 86 Duels won (#1 by a defender)

A near ever-present in the Persepolis backline as the Tehran giants reached the semi-finals for the first time, Moharrami was at his combative best throughout, winning more tackles and more duels than any other defender. Not only did he also complete more dribbles than any of his defensive compatriots, meanwhile, he was second only to Shanghai SIPG's Hulk in the competition.

Khosro HeydariEsteghlal

  • 14 chances created, 2 assists
  • 55 crosses attemped (#1 by a defender)
  • 43 open play crosses attemped (#1 by a defender)

The experience of veteran Esteghlal defender Khosro Heydari proved crucial as the Tehran side reached the knockout rounds for the first time since 2013. Another backline member who played an important role going forward, the former Iranian international attempted more crosses than any other defender, two of which led directly to goals.

Wataru EndoUrawa Red Diamonds

  • 5 clean sheets (Joint #1 by a defender)
  • 32 interceptions (#3 by a defender)
  • 81.6% passing accuracy

An excellent campaign for Yokohama native Wataru Endo saw the defender help Urawa Red Diamonds keep five clean sheets as they went on to lift their second AFC Champions League title. Solid performances in the semi-final and final, which included shutouts in both second legs, more than played their part in the J.League side's success.


Osama HawsawiAl Hilal

  • 88% passing accuracy (#2 by a defender)
  • 10 blocks (#3 by a defender)
  • 9 tackles won

Osama Hawsawi captained Al Hilal to their second final in four years as he marshalled a backline that was the best – in terms of goals conceded per game – in the competition. A reliable precence in the heart of defence, the now retired centre-back fell just short of adding a Continental title to his bulging trophy cabinet.

Tomoaki MakinoUrawa Red Diamonds

  • 37 interceptions (#1 by a defender)
  • 81 duels won (#2 by a defender)
  • 5 clean sheets (joint #1 by a defender)

Mr. Consistent, Tomoaki Makino played more minutes (1,290) than any other player in the 2017 AFC Champions League. The Hiroshima native placed either first or second in several key defensive statistics and was an ever-present in Urawa's title-winning backline. A charismatic character on and off the field, Makino's 2017 campaign further underlined his position as one of the best Asian defenders playing in the Continent.

Ismael AhmedAl Ain

  • 2 goals scored, 1 assist
  • 75% tackle success rate
  • 38 duels won

AFC Champions League regular Ismail Ahmed was a contender for 2016's Best XI and the Emirati was a again a leading light in the Al Ain defence in 2017. Two goals and an assist in the group stage was an excellent return for a man usually charged with keeping things quiet at the other end, while he once again proved why he is so highly regarded both as a great reader of the game and vocal presence in the Al Ain backline.

Feng XiaotingGuangzhou Evergrande

  • 80.2% passing accuracy
  • 54 clearances
  • 19 interceptions

A two-time winner, Feng Xiaoting has made 70 appearances in the AFC Champions League to date, and the 2017 edition was yet another campaign in which he displayed his trademark consistency and high standards. Able to cut out an attack thanks to his expert positioning and reading of the game, Feng showed why he is a worthy candidate for our best XI.

Ryota MoriwakiUrawa Red Diamonds

  • 86.7% passing accuracy
  • 41 duels won
  • 1 goal, 1 assist

He'll be perhaps best remembered by Urawa Reds fans for his dramatic extra-time winner against Jeju United that completed an excellent comeback after a 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Korea Republic, but Moriwaki also impressed in other areas of the field during the 2017 tournament with his accurate passing and physical strength proving a big asset to the eventual champions.

Shi KeShanghai SIPG

  • 71 clearances (#1 for a defender)
  • 32 duels won
  • 2 goals scored

Shi Ke was also nominated for our best eleven for the 2016 AFC Champions League, and it speaks to his consistency that he features among the candidates again at the 2017 tournament. Shanghai SIPG went a step further than their 2016 campaign, reaching the semi-finals, and once more Shi Ke was at the heart of their defence.


Theerathon BunmathanMuangthong United

  • 80.8% passing accuracy
  • 12 chances created
  • 1 goal, 2 assists

One of the best set-piece specialists the AFC Champions League has ever seen, Theerathon Bunmathan did not disappoint at the 2017 edition with a wonderful free-kick that saw Muangthong secure an upset victory over Kashima Antlers in the group stage. Although the Thais would ultimately exit at the Round of 16, Theerathon ensured his performances would be remembered.

Yasser Al ShahraniAl Hilal

  • 22 tackles won (#2 for a defender)
  • 5 shots on target (joint #1 for a defender)
  • 78% passing accuracy

Among the most highly respected full-backs in West Asia, Yasser Al Shahrani enjoyed a hugely successful AFC Champions League campaign where he was as effective going forward as he was in the Al Hilal backline. One of his most memorable contributions for the Hilalis would have been his stunning strike from outside the box against Persepolis in the semi-finals.

Li XuepengGuangzhou Evergrande

  • 17 successful crosses (#1 by a defender)
  • 14 chances created, 2 assists
  • 70% tackle success rate

Often overlooked amongst his teammates in the Guangzhou Evergrande backline that includes Zhang Linpeng and Feng Xiaoting, the reality is that Li Xuepeng remains an important cog in the southern Chinese giants rearguard, as he was at the 2017 AFC Champions League.

Peyman ShirzadiEsteghlal Khouzestan

  • 12 successful crosses from open play (#1 by a defender)
  • 13 chances created, two assists
  • 64% tackle success rate

Esteghlal Khouzestan shook off their debutants tag to progress to the AFC Champions League knockout stages at the first time of asking and full-back Peyman Shirzadi's accurate deliveries from the left flank were a potent part of their arsenal that helped them there.

The polls end on June 21 at 4pm (UTC+8) .The Best XI chosen by fans and the best XI based on the 2017 statistics will be announced at the beginning of July.

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