AFC Champions League 2019 Round of 16 West Zone Leg 2: The 4 Big Questions

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

With the AFC Champions League 2019 quarter-final berths still up for grabs, FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan looks at the four big questions ahead of the Round of 16 second-leg ties in the West Zone.

COULD LEONARDO’S AWAY GOAL PROVE CRUCIAL FOR AL WAHDA?

After a 1-1 draw in Riyadh, the tie between Al Nassr and Al Wahda remains evenly poised but the latter do have the advantage of an away goal at the moment.

With Al Wahda now enjoying home advantage in Monday’s return encounter at the Al Nahyan Stadium, they should enter the match as slight favourites especially with Leonardo, Ismail Matar and Sebastian Tagliabue linking up well in the final third last Monday.

FOUR-goal hero Leonardo wins it for Al Wahda!

Al Nassr do however also offer plenty in attack with Abderrazak Hamdallah posing a strong focal point in attack, well supported by the creative Giuliano and Fahad Al-Jumeiah.

Nonetheless, Al Wahda’s fine prospect Mohammed Al-Shamsi was a commanding presence in goal in the first leg, should he produce a repeat performance and even keep a clean sheet this time around, it will be the Emirati outfit who will be advancing into the last eight.

WILL IRAN’S LAST HOPE ZOB AHAN BE BOOTED OUT BY AL ITTIHAD?

With Persepolis and Esteghlal meekly falling by the wayside in the group stage, Zob Ahan deserve plenty of credit for flying the flag for Iran.

However, they came up against formidable opposition in the first leg of the Round of 16 and, despite initially taking the lead, succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Al Ittihad.

Having impressed earlier on in the campaign, Zob Ahan striker Amir Arsalan Motahari was completely nullified while new signing Macauley Christantus failed to appear off the bench, and it was left to veteran playmaker Ghasem Hadadifar to try and carve out openings in the final third.

While they have been a real fresh breath of air in the tournament so far, Zob Ahan could be facing an early exit in the knockout stage unless they can find some firepower on Monday evening.

CAN OMAR AL-SOMA INSPIRE AL AHLI COMEBACK AGAINST AL HILAL?

Bafetimbi Gomis showed just how important it is to have a strong focal point in attack on Tuesday as he netted a hat-trick in Al Hilal’s 4-2 triumph over Al Ahli.

Al Ahli do have a prolific target man of their own and, in Omar Al-Soma’s defence, he has been in brilliant form this campaign having netted seven of his team’s nine goals so far in their continental campaign although it has turned into something of an unhealthy reliance.

Having lost the first leg at home, Al Ahli face an uphill task and are likely to need at least a three-goal win to stay alive in the competition.

Nonetheless, if Al-Soma has his way, Al Hilal might just be in for a trickier evening that they originally expected.

IS IT GOING TO BE SECOND TIME LUCKY FOR XAVI?

Xavi’s managerial debut was going smoothly on Tuesday when Akram Afif fired Al Sadd ahead in the 30th minute, but Youssef Msakni equalised shortly before halftime as Al Duhail came back to salvage a 1-1 draw.

In what proved to be an enthralling all-Qatar affair, Al Duhail looked the more dangerous of the two chances and would have felt that they might have come away with the victory.

With home advantage now on their side – and an away goal – in their possession, Al Sadd should be confident in their prospects of handing Xavi his maiden win as a coach.

Al Duhail do have plenty of firepower in the form of Msakni, Almoez Ali and Edmilson Junior and they did look the more fluent attack of the two sides in the first leg, meaning Al Sadd will need the likes of Baghdad Bounedjah, Akram Afif and Nam Tae-hee to rise to the occasion.

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