Kuala Lumpur: As we await the resumption of the 2020 AFC Champions League (East), the-AFC.com turns to the recently concluded West Asia stage to determine the top 11 players.
To select the candidates for each position, we have reflected on match data from the tournament to draw up a statistics-based approach to present the outstanding performers.
We kick things off with five standout goalkeepers for the all-important number one jersey. Review the nominees and then choose who you think should take the position as the last line of defence in this all-star XI in the poll below.
See also :
AFC Champions League
The Asian Football Quiz – AFC Champions League 2020 (West)
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Hamed Lak – Persepolis
- 7 appearances, 2 goals conceded
- 5 clean sheets (#1 for goalkeepers)
- 88.9% save percentage
Persepolis were supposed to have a gaping hole in their rearguard with the departure of IR Iran star goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand to Belgium, but such has been the performances of his replacement Hamed Lak, that their steely backline has lost none of it's metal.
Lak has conceded just two goals in seven matches, none of those from open play, and the 29-year-old has been a huge part of the Tehran giants march to the 2020 AFC Champions League final. His shining moment came in the semi-final against Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr, with a big save in the penalty shootout to deny Maicon and help send Persepolis into the competition climax.
Brad Jones – Al Nassr
- 8 appearances, 5 goals conceded
- 4 clean sheets (#2 for goalkeepers)
- 83.3% save percentage
Driving Al Nassr further in the AFC Champions League than ever before, former Feyenoord and Liverpool 'keeper Brad Jones was one of the shining lights of the Riyadh side's Continental campaign this year.
The Australian was second only to Lak in terms of cleansheets and his 25 saves is more than any other goalkeeper in this year's competition. He was on particularly impressive form in the knockout stages with back-to-back cleansheets, but was finally beaten by a header from Persepolis' Mehdi Abdi Qara that ultimately saw Al Nassr exit via penalties.
Cassio – Al Taawoun
- 7 appearances, 9 goals conceded
- 3 clean sheets
- 68.9% save percentage
Brazilian veteran Cassio was an important part of Saudi side Al Taawoun's run to their first appearance in the AFC Champions League knockout stage, as the Buraidah club stunningly edged out Qatari heavyweights Al Duhail to reach the Round of 16.
Cassio's steady presence behind the defence proved a formidable barrier to opposing strikers as the 40-year-old pulled off 21 saves, the second most by a goalkeeper, while his accurate distribution set a platform for his team to build their riposte. Indeed, Cassio's 182 successful passes were more than any other 'keeper.
Majed Nasser – Shabab Al Ahli
- 5 appearances, 3 goals conceded
- 3 clean sheets
- 84.2% save percentage (#2 for goalkeepers)
Another custodian who helped his side to a Round of 16 finish, the vastly experienced Majed Nasser makes our candidates for the best XI from the West. The Emirati international was part of a side that conceded just twice from four matches in the Group Stage and were only eventually eliminated via a penalty shootout in the knockout stage.
Nasser's shot-stopping ability was tested on several occasions, but the 36-year-old proved to be up to the task with his 16 saves coming at a save percentage of 84.2% – the second best amongst goalkeepers with more than two games played in the 2020 campaign.
Saad Al Sheeb – Al Sadd
- 6 appearances, 7 goals conceded
- 2 clean sheets
- 63.2% save percentage
A star of Qatar's 2019 AFC Asian Cup winning side, Saad Al Sheeb will look back on the 2020 AFC Champions League campaign with decidedly mixed feelings. Playing in their home city of Doha, and with several high profile names in the line-up including former Arsenal star Santi Cazorla, many would have tipped Al Sadd to go further than their Round of 16 exit.
Nevertheless, Al Sheeb's personal performance were again to a high standard. Not only did the 30-year-old show off some his superlative reflexes and shot-stopping, but – like Cassio – his distribution was also impressive as he registered 114 successful passes – a quality that one would expect under a coach like Spain legend Xavi.
Now that you've seen all five great goalkeepers, vote for your best in the poll and secure them a place in the Best XI for the 2020 AFC Champions League (West).
The Best XI chosen by fans and the Best XI based on the 2020 statistics will be announced in mid-November.
The poll runs until October 24, 3pm (UTC+8)
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