Come Monday, we will have one of the finalists of the AFC Cup 2017 determined after the second leg of the West Zone final between Air Force Club of Iraq and Al Wahda of Syria. This week will also see the first leg of the Inter-Zonal final between Bengaluru FC and FC Istiklol as the two teams vie to reach the grand final. What can we expect in Asia's secondary continental tournament this week?
WEST ZONE FINAL 2nd LEG:
AIR FORCE CLUB (IRQ) v AL WAHDA (SYR)
Defending champions Air Force Club have a task on their hands when they welcome Syria's Al Wahda for the second leg of the West Zone final on Monday. In the first leg, the Syrians had triumphed 2-1 which means a draw is enough to take them through to the Grand Final while Air Force Club will have to go for an outright win.
Interestingly, both teams had played each other in the group stages, with both games ending in a draw. A draw will suit the visitors just fine on Monday. For Air Force Club, a lack of goals has been concerning and their star striker Hammadi Ahmadi has notched just the two goals after scoring 16 goals last season. But it was his strike in the first leg that gave them a vital away goal which could prove to be decisive here.
Al Wahda, on the other hand, have scored the most goals in the West Zone this year - 16 goals. They have the firepower and with striker Raja Rafe in good form, will be confident of scoring against Air Force Club. All points towards a mouthwatering clash.
Venue: Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: September 26, 18:00 UTC+3
INTER-ZONAL FINAL 1st LEG:
FC ISTIKLOL (TJK) v BENGALURU FC (IND)
2015 runners-up FC Istiklol and 2016 runners-up Bengaluru FC both know the pain of falling at the final hurdle in this tournament and will be eager to grab another chance to set things right again. That is exactly what is on offer when the two teams meet in a two-legged tie in the Inter-Zonal final. The first leg, on Tuesday, will see Istiklol welcome the Indian team to Dushanbe where they will hope to notch a positive result.
FC Istiklol are on a high, having won the Tajik League for a fourth consecutive season recently and will be primed for this continental battle. They have not lost in the AFC Cup yet in eight games and have been imperious at home. They have scored 10 goals and conceded just the one goal in four games at home in the competition. This included a comprehensive 4-0 win over Ceres Negros in the Inter-Zonal semifinal first leg which effectively killed the tie off before the second leg. This is what Bengaluru FC need to be wary about.
Bengaluru FC will be eager to prove that their run to the final last year was no flash in the pan. They beat North Korean champions 4.25 SC convincingly in the previous round and will be focusing on ensuring Istiklol do not enjoy a huge advantage before they can play Istiklol at home in the second leg.
Venue: Hisor Central Stadium, Hisor
Kick-off: September 27, 19:00 UTC+5:30