ACL: Wahda hope for the best at Persepolis as they aim for knockouts

Matt Monaghan 22:04 07/05/2017
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Knockout dreams: Al Wahda must win at Persepolis and hope (Chris Whiteoak).

Al Wahda face a mission improbable to make the 2017 AFC Champions League knockouts on Monday night as they aim for a memorable victory at Iran giants Persepolis and hope other results go their way.

The Clarets had only one point after their first four games in a punishing Group D. But a remarkable 5-1 thrashing of Qatar’s Al Rayyan last time out has given them a fighting chance of making the latter stages for the first time in a decade.

They must now defeat the runaway Persian Gulf Pro League winners at their imposing, 78,116-capacity Azadi Stadium and see already-qualified Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia turn over Rayyan.

“We face a big test in Iran,” said Wahda coach Javier Aguirre. “We have to win in Persepolis and we are waiting for the other results.

“It will be a tough game in front of maybe 60,000 fans. It will be crazy.

“Persepolis have put in a good performance and play in a tough way. But I have confidence in my players to win the game.”

The omens do not look great for Wahda, who remain a distant fifth in the Arabian Gulf League after collapsing to a 2-2 draw at home to minnows Dibba Al Fujairah on Wednesday. Arteshe sorkh have lost just one of their last 30 home matches in all competitions, with their previous Asian reversal at the Azadi incurred in May 2012.

The Clarets also pitifully conceded two goals in the last 10 minutes during February’s first meetings, collapsing to a 3-2 loss.

Branko Ivankovic – who had an undistinguished year at Wahda from 2012-13 – wanted his troops to exhibit a positive attitude and gain the victory required to potentially eliminate Rayyan.

He said: “We have to play in an energetic way and be full of optimism. It will not be easy for us and for them – Wahda will be full of optimism after they beat Al Rayyan.”

If Wahda – who play Al Nasr in next week’s President’s Cup final – manage to grab second spot, they will meet Qatar Stars League champions Lekhwiya on May 23 and 30.

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