AFC Champions League Quarterfinal: First-leg: Iran’s Persepolis takes on Saudi Al Ahli in Muscat

August 22, 2017

Mehdi Taremi of Persepolis

Two of West Asia's most popular teams - Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli and Iran's  Persepolis – will meet in a mouth-watering clash in the first-leg of the 2017 AFC Champions League (ACL) quarterfinals at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat on Tuesday. The match kicks off at 8pm.

For Omani fans, Al Ahli holds a special place as it was the club where former national team star Imad al Hosni spent three seasons and was a member of the 2012 ACL runner-up side.

Although Al Ahli have never won an Asian title, it was the first Saudi club to reach the final of the Asian Club Championship, back in 1985.

In the title decider, the Jeddah-based club lost to Daewoo Royals of South Korea. A similar fate ensued when Al Ahli made its second appearance in a continental final in 2012, only to lose to another South Korean side – Ulsan Hyundai.

Since that disappointment, Al Ahli has not made it past the quarterfinals. This year, Al Ahli will be hoping to better that record. After finishing second in Group C behind Al Ain, Al Ahli faced its namesakes from the UAE, who was runner-up in the 2015 edition.

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Prolific front man Omar al Soma was unavailable for both ties of the round of 16 fixture due to injury, but the Saudi side managed to register a convincing 4-2 aggregate victory.

Syrian striker Soma is now back in the squad and will be ready to lead Al Ahli's attack once again after scoring four times in the group stage.

While Persepolis did reach the semifinals of the Asian Club Championship in 1997, 1998 and 2001, it has failed to reach the quarterfinals of the revamped ACL before this year's edition.

The 2017 campaign saw Persepolis successfully navigate a tough group featuring Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s Al Rayyan and UAE's Al Wahda. Finishing second in the group, it took on Doha side Lekhwiya in the pre-quarterfinals.

After a goalless first-leg game, it would take an own goal from Lekhwiya defender Chico Flores in the second-leg to take Persepolis to the quarterfinals.

Persepolis has one man to thank in particular for getting so far in the competition - Iran striker Mehdi Taremi. Despite not scoring in the previous round, the 24 year old has struck six times so far and sits in second place in the scoring charts behind Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman.