Pakhtakor head coach Shota Arveladze believes his side need to convert more of their chances, ahead of their Matchday Four fixture against reigning champions Al Hilal SFC in Group B of the 2020 AFC Champions League.
A Sebastian Giovinco free-kick and a last-second strike from substitute Hattan Bahebri sealed a 2-1 win for Al Hilal on Monday as Pakhtakor were reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of keeper Eldorbek Suyonov for handling the ball outside of his area.
But with two victories from their first two games, Pakhtakor could still pip Al Hilal to the top of the group with a two-goal margin win, and if Shahr Khodro manage a win against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the other match today, the Uzbek League champions could have a foot and a half in the Round of 16 come Matchday Five.
“We did not change much in our programme following the previous game,” said Arveladze.
“It was mostly recovery and preparation to face Al Hilal again. We know each game is different, and we cannot do the same thing in each game. We cannot keep wasting the chances we get, and we are here to prove we can compete at the highest level.
“We have quality at the back and up front, and we are determined to come out with the three points.”
“This level of competition needs players who are individually able to change the course of the match such as Giovinco did from the free-kick.
“Al Hilal are a good team who have excellent players, some of whom are goal machines, and they are the best team in Asia, but we have quality too.”
The best team in Asia is a tag Al Hilal’s Romanian head coach Razvan Lucescu is keen to prove with the reigning champions intent on keeping their 100 percent record so far in the competition and securing qualification early on.
“As is always the case, we want to win this match. Both teams know each other better now, so focus is ever more important for us,” said Lucescu, who led Al Hilal to the 2019 AFC Champions League title just five months after his arrival.
“We are still in an early phase, the job is not done yet even though we have nine points out of a possible nine. Pakhtakor are a big team both offensively and defensively, they also possess a fair amount of physical strength but we also have the talent and ability and want to win this match.”
A win for the three time continental champions will see them join compatriots Al Ahli FC Saudi in the Round of 16, with a perfect head-to-head record against the Uzbek side.
In another Group B match, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai FC will look to repeat their win against Shahr Khodro FC when they meet in a 6pm kick-off at Al Janoub Stadium.
The Dubai-based side had managed to scrape a 1-0 win against their Iranian opponents, thanks to a magnificent solo effort from youngster Harib Abdallah Suhail, as Shabab Al Ahli picked up their first three points in the 2020 edition.
Group A at Khalifa International Stadium
6pm: Al Shorta (IRQ) vs Al Ahli FC (KSA)
Group B at Al Janoub Stadium
6pm: Shahr Khodro (IRN) vs Shabab Al Ahli (UAE)
9pm: Pakhtakor (UZB) vs Al Hilal (KSA)
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