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Vote for your best AFC Champions League 2020 (West) Team: Defenders


Kuala Lumpur: The return of the 2020 AFC Champions League (East) is now just weeks away but before this season's Continental campaign resumes, the-AFC.com continues its quest to find out who the fans consider the Best XI from the West Asia stage.

Last week we presented the candidates for the 2020 edition's best goalkeeper, and now we shine the spotlight on the players who will make up the backline.

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

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RIGHT-BACKS

Sultan Al Ghannam – Al Nassr

  • 4 assists (#1 by a defender)
  • 19 interceptions (#1 by a defender)
  • 45 duels won (joint #2 by a defender)

One of the stars of Al Nassr's best-ever AFC Champions League campaign, Sultan Al Ghannam shone both at the back and going forward. When it comes to both assists and chances created, the right-back has posted more than any other player in West Asia while his performance in the quarter-final victory over Al Ahli Saudi saw him voted the Toyota Player of the Week.


Siamak Nemati – Persepolis

  • 21 crosses in open play (#3 by a defender)
  • 6 chances created
  • 1 assist

Injuries to others forced Persepolis coach Yahya Golmohammadi to move midfielder Siamak Nemati to right-back ahead of the tournament's resumption in Qatar and, such were his performances, he made the position his own. The Tehran native was part of a backline so tight it didn't concede from open play in seven games in Doha while he was also a constant threat going forward.


Pedro Miguel – Al Sadd

  • 20 tackles (#1 by a defender)
  • 45 duels won (joint #2 by a defender)
  • 2 chances created, 1 assist

A consistent performer during more than four years at Al Sadd, Pedro Miguel was at his combative best in the 2020 edition as he won more tackles than any other defender and ranked high on the duels won. In an attacking Al Sadd team, the full-back was also a strong presence going forward, weighing in with both chances created and assists.


Khojiakbar Alijonov – Pakhtakor

  • 12 tackles won (#2 by a defender)
  • 33 duels won
  • 6 chances created, 1 assist

Pakhtakor produced their best performance in the AFC Champions League since 2009 as the Uzbek giants reached the quarter-finals, and Khojiakbar Alijonov was one of many standout performers. An excellent assist helped the Tashkent side level the scores in the Round of 16 against Esteghlal before Pakhtakor marched on to the last eight.


CENTRE-BACKS

Shojae Khalilzadeh – Persepolis

  • 14 tackles won (#1 by a defender)
  • 2 goals scored (#1 by a defender)
  • 598 passes and 231 passes in opp. half (both #1 by a defender)

When it comes to a statistics-based analysis, few players produce numbers as impressive as Shojae Khalilzadeh but his influence on Persepolis was far greater than just posting a high tackle or duels won count. A charismatic and vocal presence at the back, the versatile defender popped up with crucial goals at important times, as shown in the Tehran team's late win over Al Taawoun on Matchday Three. The player has since signed for Qatar Stars League side Al Rayyan.


Hossein Kanaani – Persepolis

  • 379 passes completed (#2 by a defender)
  • 28 duels won
  • 15 interceptions

One of the success stories of the tournament's resumption, Hossein Kanaani rejoined boyhood club Persepolis in 2019 and he has taken the regular starting berth of club legend Seyed Jalal Hosseini. The 26-year-old excelled in the position, with his completed passes, duels won and interceptions count all high, while five shutouts in seven games at the back is an outstanding achievement.


MaiconAl Nassr

  • 34 clearances, 21 headed clearances (both #1 by a defender)
  • 22 aerials won (#1 by a defender)
  • 7 blocks (#1 by a defender)

Maicon performed his defensive duties down to a tee, posting the highest number of clearances, aerial duels won and blocks in evidence that he is perfectly happy to do the dirty work at the back. Sadly for the Brazilian, it was he that missed the penalty in the shootout against Persepolis that saw the Saudi side exit, but that should not detract from the excellent work he did throughout.


Tarek Salman – Al Sadd

  • 90.1% passing accuracy (#1 by a defender with 200+ passes)
  • 71% tackle success rate
  • 13 clearances

In the end, Al Sadd ended up falling at the hands of their old foes Persepolis but they had, at times, dazzled en route to the knockout stages. As ever, Aspire Academy graduate Tarek Salman impressed at the back, always willing to play his way out of danger in sticking to the Doha's side principles of keeping the ball on the ground, something which is reflected in his passing stats above.


Medhi Benatia – Al Duhail

  • 67% duel success rate (#1 by a defender with 20+ duels)
  • 45 possessions won (#3 by a defender)
  • 70% tackle success rate

Arguably the most renowned defender in the competition, Al Duhail's Medhi Benatia stood out at the back, winning two-thirds of the duels he went in for and gaining possession back for his team just under eight times per game on average. A red card almost soured the Moroccan's campaign but it was soon rescinded as he returned to the starting line-up; however, the Doha side narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout rounds.


Abdullah Madu – Al Nassr

  • 80% tackle success rate
  • 17 clearances
  • Only dribbled past twice at ACL2020

Alongside Maicon in the heart of the Al Nassr defence, Abdullah Madu started all but one of the Saudi side's games from when the 2020 campaign resumed in Qatar and the 27-year-old was key to their success. A towering figure who attackers struggled to get past, the Mecca native won four of every five tackles he went in for.


LEFT-BACKS

Awad Khamis – Al Nassr

  • 100% tackle success rate
  • 80.4% passing accuracy
  • 5 chances created

Like Sultan Al Ghannam on the right flank, Awad Khamis was hugely effective down the Al Nassr left, with his energetic displays helping the Riyadh side keep out the opposition at one end and harm them at the other. Impressively, Khamis never lost out in the tackle while he created five chances in the five games he started in Qatar.


Saeid Aghaei – Persepolis

  • 25 crosses from open play (#1 by a defender)
  • 4 clean sheets
  • 6 chances created

It's no surprise that every member of Persepolis' regular back four made the cut with Saeid Aghaei, who joined from Sepahan prior to the resumption, slotting in seamlessly. The only game Persepolis lost in Doha was the only one in which the he didn't play, while he was a superb addition going forward, delivering more crosses from open play than any other defender and assisting his side's second goal in the quarter-final win over Pakhtakor.


Farrukh Sayfiev – Pakhtakor

  • 63% tackle success rate
  • 11 clearances
  • 4 chances created

As with the majority of effective full-backs in the modern game, Farrukh Sayfiev offers quality at both ends. The Uzbekistan international was part of a backline that conceded just once in three games prior to the quarter-final against Persepolis while he also created four chances for his teammates as Pakhtakor continued to reestablish themselves as a force on the Continent.


Abdulaziz Haikal – Shabab Al Ahli Dubai

  • 67% tackle success rate
  • 23 duels won
  • 2 chances created, 1 assist

Rounding off our four left-backs is Shabab Al Ahli's Abdulaziz Haikal after he helped the Dubai side reach the last 16 before exiting on penalties to namesakes Al Ahli Saudi. It was a solid campaign for Haikal, though, as he won two-thirds of his tackles at one end and weighed in with both chances created and an assist at the other.

The polls have ended. Thank you for voting and don't forget to vote for the AFC Champions League 2020 (West) Team: Midfielders which will kick off at 14:00 (UTC +8) on November 1. The Best XI chosen by fans and the Best XI based on the 2020 statistics will be announced in mid-November.

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