Al Ittihad - Persepolis Preview: Saudi and Iranian giants set for knockout clash
Wednesday's Round of 16 clash pits two of West Asia's biggest clubs against one another, although the Tigers have a great recent history in the ACL, in direct contrast to Piroozi
By Ben Somerford & Pejman Rahbar
Hazzazi, Asseri, Al Muwallad, Al Montashari
Kariri, Abd Rabo
Aliasgar, Nosrati, Sheys Rezaei, Pooladi
Gholamreza Rezaei, Noori, Karimi
Al Ittihad boss Raul Caneda has a strong side to choose from for this clash and it is likely he'll favour a 4-2-1-2-1 line-up with livewire Naif Hazazi at the top. The Tigers finished the group stage in top spot in Group B with a last-gasp 3-2 win over Al Arabi, with Moroccan attacker Abdelghani Faouzi scoring a stoppage-time winner. He's likely to be part of their attacking trio, alongside highly-rated Mohammed Noor and Hazazi too.
Persepolis have a few concerns with fitness worries for star attacker Ali Karimi, as well as full-back Mehrdad Pooladi and midfielder Saman Aghazamani, however it seems only the latter will miss the game. The team, who finished the 2011-12 Iranian season down in 12th, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday but there remains talk of internal problems among the players and coach Mustafa Denizli.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Al Ittihad have a fine ACL history having won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005, while they were runners-up in 2009 and reached the final four in 2011.
- The Tigers' last piece of major silverware was back in 2010, when they lifted the Saudi Champions Cup. They haven't been domestic champions since 2009.
- In last year's ACL, these two sides were grouped together, with Al Ittihad winning 3-1 in Jeddah, while Persepolis triumphed 3-2 in Tehran.
- Persepolis may be one of Asia's best supported clubs but they have an underwhelming record on the continent, having never reached the decider before, while city rivals Esteghlal are four-time finalists.
- The Tehran giants reached consecutive Asian Club Championship semi-finals in the 1999-00 and 2000-01 editions, but under the current Champions League format have struggled with last year's Round of 16 effort their best in recent history.
- Piroozi coach Mustafa Denizli guided PAS Tehran to the ACL quarter-finals in 2005.
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Top 3 Predictions
Al Ittihad 1-2 Persepolis FC
- 34.53 %
Al Ittihad 1-3 Persepolis FC
- 10.77 %
Al Ittihad 0-2 Persepolis FC
- 8.01 %
|Asian Champions League (ACL)||May 23, 2012||Al Ittihad 3 - Persepolis FC 0|
|Dec 3, 2013||Al Ittihad 3 - Al-Hazm 1||KSAC|
|Nov 29, 2013||Al Ittihad 0 - ALnasr 3||KSA1|
|Nov 25, 2013||Al Raed 1 - Al Ittihad 4||KSA1|
|Nov 7, 2013||Al-Nahdha 4 - Al Ittihad 4||KSA1|
|Nov 1, 2013||Al Ittihad 1 - Al Ittifaq 1||KSA1|
|33||Osama Al Moualad||Defender|
|28||Mohammed Abo Sabaan||Midfielder|
|8||Hosni Abd Rabou||Midfielder|
|28||Ali Al Mazyadi||Goalkeeper|
|16||Moshiel Al Sayed||Defender|
|-||Fabrice Nguessi Ondama||Striker|
|7||Hamidreza Ali Asgari||Defender|
|-||Amir Hossain Feshangchi||Defender|
|-||Ali Reza Mohammad||Defender|
The Saudi Arabia international midfielder has the ability to turn the game with a moment's brilliance. Noor will be given a licence by Caneda to play freely and could be the key attacking cog for the Tigers.
Piroozi's superstar may have reportedly had some off-field dramas this term, but remains the team's best player. Karimi's attacking threat means Al Ittihad will need to be on their toes.
The Saudi Arabian giants have a proud record in Asia and at home against a Persepolis side who battled through the 2011-12 Iranian league campaign, they must be considered hot favourites. Raul Caneda's side have the firepower in Naif Hazazi and Mohammed Noor to get the job done comfortably.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed