Nassr, Ahli relying on familiarity to seal semi ticket
September 30 2020 02:19 AM
Al Nassr FC are looking to create club history by reaching their first-ever AFC Champions League sem
Al Nassr FC are looking to create club history by reaching their first-ever AFC Champions League sem

AFC/ Doha

Al Nassr FC are looking to create club history by reaching their first-ever AFC Champions League semi-final when they face compatriots Al Ahli Saudi FC in the quarter-final of the 2020 competition today.
While both Saudi teams have never won the competition, Al Ahli did reach the final in 2012, losing to Ulsan Hyundai 3-0. They have since reached the quarter-finals on two occasions; in 2013 and 2017. Al Nassr, meanwhile, are in the quarter-final for the second time in a row, having never reached this stage before 2019.
Despite Al Ahli having a relatively superior record in the AFC Champions League, Al Nassr boast nine Saudi Pro League titles to Al Ahli’s three. The two head coaches have taken different perspectives to a match that brings together two sides who know each other so well.
“It is an advantage for both teams to face a fellow Saudi team,” said Al Nassr head coach Rui Vitoria.
“It makes it easier for the coaches to prepare for the match because we know each other. I like the fact a Saudi team is guaranteed to reach the West final. Of course, I want us to be that team, but I am happy that a team from our league will be in the final of this part of the competition. “The players will not only be tired in their legs, they will also be tired mentally and with time there is a tendency to lose concentration, so the team that retains more concentration until the end and stays mentally stronger will win.”
A 75th minute Abderazzak Hamdallah strike settled Al Nassr’s Round of 16 encounter against Al Taawoun, while Al Ahli had to fight to come from behind against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, with a second-half Omar Al Soma penalty cancelling out Azizjon Ganiev’s opener.
Head coach Vladan Milojevic’s men needed 30 minutes of extra time and a penalty shootout which saw Al Soma miss from the spot, but he was spared the punishment after Abdullah al-Naqbi fired wide for Shabab Al Ahli, handing the Saudis a 4-3 win with Ahmed Khalil having earlier missed Shabab Al Ahli’s first penalty.
“We know in the last game we played extra time and had a long and tiring game, but I feel my players are preparing very well for the game,” said Milojevic.
“Al Nassr are a strong team with good players. They have a lot of quick and skilful players like Hamdallah, Abdulfattah Asiri and Pity Martinez, but for me, it is about having a good team, not just good individuals, and I am confident that we have a good team. We know very well that Al Nassr are a big team and are always competing for the title in the Saudi Pro League, just like us. For me this is a strong derby, and I know both teams will come with motivation, but I believe in my team having the most motivation to go to the next round.”
This is the second time in AFC Champions League history that two Saudi teams have faced off in the quarter-finals. Coincidentally, the only other time this happened was last year with Al Nassr and Al Ahli’s two city rivals. 
On the occasion, Riyadh-based Al Hilal beat Jeddah-based Al Ittihad 3-1 on aggregate at the same stage and went on to be crowned champions.

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