AFC Cup 2017: Matchday Six - West Zone Preview

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It's crunch time in West Zone of Asia's secondary continental club competition as the final game of the group stages loom large..

It's crunch time in the West Zone groups of the AFC Cup 2017 as matchday six gets underway on Monday. It's now or never for the clubs who are chasing continental glory, for which the first step is qualification from their respective groups. Let's take stock of what awaits us this week: 


GROUP A:


AL zawraa

Al Zawra'a (IRQ) v Al Ahli (JOR): Iraq's Al Zawra'a are primed to secure the top spot in Group A and qualify for the zonal playoffs when they host Jordanian side Al Ahli on Tuesday. The Iraqi side sit atop the table with 11 points from five games while the nearest challenger, Al Jaish, is two points adrift. Which means a draw on Monday is enough for Al Zawra'a to secure qualification. 

Al Ahli have already been eliminated and cannot even qualify as the best second-placed team. Moreover, Al Zawra'a are on a three-game win streak and are unbeaten in the group so far. Barring a huge upset, the Iraqi side should go through, even though they are without the suspended Ali Raheem. Their opponents are without Yazan Dahshan and Ahmad Al Sughair who are also suspended.

Venue: Grand Hamad Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: May 2, 18:00 UTC+3

Al Jaish (SYR) v Al Suwaiq (OMA): Syrian club Al Jaish will have nothing but a win on their minds when they host Group A stragglers Al Suwaiq on Tuesday. A win coupled with Al Zawra'a losing in the other Group A game could see Al Jaish qualify for the zonal playoffs as Group winners. Even if that does not happen, they stand a chance of going through as the best second-placed team. 

They shouldn't find much opposition at home against the Omani side who are yet to win in the tournament and have already been eliminated. The Syrian side, who were thwarted twice in the doubleheader against Al Zawra'a on matchday three and four, will be without the suspended Hussain Al Shouaeeb.

Venue: Al-Khor SC Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: May 2, 18:00 UTC+3


GROUP B:


Al Hidd vs Safa

Al Hidd (BHR) v Air Force Club (IRQ): Sparks are bound to fly when Al Hidd host defending champions Air Force Club. Both clubs are locked atop Group B on nine points each from five games and this is a make or break game. With Al Wahda just a point behind, either team could finish from first to third in the group depending on the result on Tuesday. 

Bahrain’s Al Hidd have won three in a row and will win the group should they defeat holders Air Force Club at home and have the upper hand as a result. Meanwhile, a win or draw could secure at least second position for Air Force Club. This has all the makings of a tight and closely-fought contest and it would seem Group B will go right down to the wire. 

Venue: Bahrain National Stadium, Manama
Kick-off: May 2, 18:00 UTC+3

Safa SC (LIB) v Al Wahda (SYR): Al Wahda know that automatic qualification is not in their hands when they travel to bottom-placed Safa SC on Tuesday. The Syrian club, placed third, are just a point behind Al Hidd and Air Force Club and can only finish as Group winners if the match between the current group toppers finish as a draw. But they can definitely finish second and hope to qualify as the best second-placed team otherwise. 

Lebanon’s Safa, who have Kassem Leila suspended, have just the one point in the group so far and are expected to be easy fodder for Al Wahda. 

Venue: Sports City Stadium, Beirut
Kick-off: May 2, 15:15 UTC+3


GROUP C: 


Al Muharraq vs Saham

Al Wehdat (JOR) v Al Muharraq (BHR): Group C leaders Al Muharraq need to avoid defeat when they visit Jordan's Al Wehdat on Monday to secure the top spot in the group and qualify for the zonal playoffs. But Al Muharraq will have a tough fight on their hands with Al Wehdat, who are only a point behind, and are expected to pull out all stops in trying to win and qualify themselves. 

Sayed Jaafar returns from suspension for the visitors, who instead have Mahdi Ali and Ismaeel Abdullatif out after bookings on Matchday Five. The reverse fixture on Matchday Two had finished all square 1-1, a result which Al Muharraq will be happy to get once more. This game should be tightly fought, what with such high stakes on offer. 

Venue: King Abdullah II International Stadium, Amman
Kick-off: May 1, 18:00 UTC+3

Saham Club (OMA) v Nejmeh SC (LIB): Oman's Saham Club welcome Lebanese club Nejmeh SC on Monday, knowing that this would be their final game in this season's AFC Cup. Both clubs, with four points each, have already been eliminated from the tournament and have only pride to play for. 

Moatasem Al Shibli and Abdoulaye Dieng are suspended for the hosts who have Musaab Al Sharqi available once more, while Nejmeh welcome back Ahmad Taktouk. Both clubs will be looking to avoid the wooden spoon on Monday. 

Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat
Kick-off: May 1, 19:00 UTC+4

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