Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 2017 group stage witnesses its third round, starting from Monday and Groups A & C are in action straight up. Let's take a sneak-peek at what awaits us:
Esteghlal (IRA) vs Lokomotiv Tashkent (UZB)
Group A is in the balance with all teams having secured a win each. Which is why matchday three is crucial for all four teams. Esteghlal FC of Iran will be aware of it as they host Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent on Monday.
Interestingly, both Lokomotiv and Esteghlal are coming after convincing victories over Al Ahli and Al Taawoun in the previous round and will be buoyed as a result. Lokomotiv’s Salamat Kutibaev scored a goal within 18 seconds against Al Ahli and they will be hoping he can repeat his heroics this time around as well.
While Esteghlal will hope star striker Mohsin Karimi keeps finding the back of the net at home. This is an intriguing clash but home advantage should see Esteghlal hold the edge going into this game.
Venue: Azadi stadium, Tehran
Kickoff: Mar 13, 21:00 GMT+5.30
Al Ahli (UAE) vs Al Taawoun (KSA)
Both Al Ahli and Al Taawoun got their Group A campaigns up to brilliant starts but a surprise result in the second round sees them go up against each other to gain a crucial advantage in the group.
Al Ahli are the home team and that should give them the slight advantage and with deadly strikers like Makhete Diop, one wouldn’t put it past them to win this game. But they have a terrible record against Saudi Arabian sides - having won only one game in ten attempts.
As far as Al Taawoun are concerned, they have a tough task on their hands but certainly it is not beyond them.
Venue: Rashid stadium, Dubai
Kickoff: Mar 13, 20:30 UTC+4
Al Ahli (KSA) vs Al Ain (UAE)
Having won both their games in Group C so far, Al Ahli are in a very good place right now but they are up against a strong side in Al Ain. The Emirati side are second in the group with four points so far and as a result, this first game of the double header between these two sides is extremely important.
Al Ahli will hope a win will see them assume control of the group while for Al Ain, this is their chance to usurp Al Ahli at the top of the table.
Both these sides fight till the end and we saw them thump in late winners in the previous rounds to grab all three points. It all makes for an exciting clash where Al Ahli have an incentive to win as well, considering that Al Ain got the better of them twice during last year’s tournament.
Venue: King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah
Kickoff: Mar 13, 20:30 UTC+3
Bunyodkor (UZB) vs Zob Ahan (IRA)
It is the clash of two struggling teams in Group C when Bunyodkor welcome Iran’s Zob Ahan for a third round encounter. Bunyodkor are still searching for their first point of the tournament while Zob Ahan have just the one draw to show for their efforts.
But the Uzbek team are the underdogs here and they have a very bad record against Zob Ahan. In four meetings, Bunyodkor have drawn once and lost thrice which is not really an encouraging statistic.
While Zob Ahan will hope they can gain ground on the top two teams in the group, Bunyodkor’s young guns will fancy a shot themselves as well. It should be a good watch.
Venue: Bunyodkor stadium, Tashkent
Kickoff: Mar 13, 18:00 UTC+5