By Sports Reporter/Doha
Lekhwiya will be eager to continue their Asian Champions League form when they face Iran’s Persepolis today in their Round of 16 first-leg clash. The Qatari side have been undefeated in their AFC Champions League campaign this season and will be hoping that that trend continues today at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
In the group stages Lekhwiya were dominant, scoring 15 goals and notching up four wins to top Group B. They won the Qatar Stars League on the domestic front but lost in the Qatar Cup and Emir Cup semi-finals.
Lekhwiya have the advantage of playing the second leg at home and they will be keen to return with a positive result from Tehran. These two sides have met during the group stages of the same competition in 2015. During that time, Persepolis had played out a 3-0 win at home, only for Lekhwiya to gain revenge with the same scoreline in the return fixture.
The Red Knights have faced Iranian opponents in Esteghlal Khuzestan during the group stages. After sharing points in Iran, Lekhwiya defeated Khuzestan 2-1 in Doha what was a tough contest. A similar result would do just fine for the Qatari side.
Lekhwiya will take confidence from their last outing in this competition where they had comfortably defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh 4-1. Also boosting their cause will be the return of influential midfielder Karim Boudiaf after having being suspended but Almoez Ali misses out after he picked up a booking in the victory over Al Fateh.
Midfielder Nam Tae-Hee is the top scorer for Lekhwiya in this competition so far, having netted four times so far. The South Korean, who recently won the Qatar Football Association’s Player of the Year award, is a crucial cog in this team. Another player who coach Djamel Belmadi will want to deliver is striker Yousef El Arabi. The Moroccan won the Mansour Muftah award for being the top scorer in the QSL and his goal scoring prowess will come in handy for Lekhwiya. They also have the services of Yousef Msakni who had opened the scoring during Lekhwiya’s 3-0 win over Persepolis in 2015. The Tunisian has the ability to provide the crucial breakthrough.
Belmadi’s boys will have to put in a disciplined performance in Tehran and then take advantage of the home ground and close out the tie. It will be crucial for the Lekhwiya defence to hold fort and for that players like Mohamed Musa, Chico Flores and Ahmed Yasser will have to step up and deliver.
Meanwhile Persepolis are looking to make it fourth time lucky in the Round of 16 after being eliminated in each of their three previous appearances.
The hosts’ tournament-leading scorer Mehdi Taremi has netted seven times, including a hat-trick against Al Wahda to seal second place in Group D.
Lekhwiya will have to nullify the Taremi threat if they have to progress. The Qatari side has the quality to do so. Now to see if they can convert that into a result on the pitch today.
Persepolis (IRN) v Lekhwiya (QAT)
Venue: Azadi Stadium, Tehran
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