x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Asian Champions League: Guide to Group D teams

The inside track on Al Ain's rivals in this year's Asian Champions League group stage.

Ferdoon Zandi of Esteghlal is challenged by Al Jazira's Ibrahim Diaky during their 2012 Champions League clash.
Ferdoon Zandi of Esteghlal is challenged by Al Jazira's Ibrahim Diaky during their 2012 Champions League clash.

The inside track on Al Ain's rivals in this year's Asian Champions League group stage.

Esteghlal - Iran

The Iranians were crowned the continent's best side in 1970 and 1991, but have a modest record in the rebranded Asian Champions League. Last season - their fifth appearance in the tournament - Esteghlal emerged from a group containing Al Jazira but were beaten in the next round by Sepahan. In Farhad Majidi, the captain, they have one of Asia's top performers, yet if the seven-time Iranian champions, who are on course for an eighth title, are to progress much will depend on the tactics of their manager Amir Ghalenoei.

Star man: Javad Nekounam (midfielder)

 

Al Rayyan - Qatar

In four appearances in the tournament the Qatar club have never emerged from the group stages. Last season saw them finish third in a pool that included Al Jazira, Rayyan losing twice to the UAE side. Domestic success has also been difficult to attain for the seven-time league champions - their last title was in 1995 - but the prevalence of skilful Brazilians in their squad hints they have the talent to provide a threat this year. Diego Aguirre, the coach, must ensure they end their knockout-stages hoodoo.

Star man: Nilmar (striker)

 

Al Hilal - Saudi Arabia

The Saudis appear well-placed this year to add to their teeming trophy cabinet. Hilal remain in the hunt for a 14th league title and will strike fear into their opponents. They topped their group last season before thumping Baniyas 7-1 in the following round, although Ulsan Hyundai, the eventual champions, halted their run. Their attack is stacked with goals, with Yasser Al Qahtani, last season's star with Al Ain, and Wesley, the Brazilian, boasting 26 league goals between them this season.

Star man: Yasser Al Qahtani (striker)