ACL Round of 16: Motahari, Khalilzadeh among Players to Watch

ACL Round of 16: Motahari, Khalilzadeh among Players to Watch

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Esteghlal forward Amir Arsalan Motahari and Persepolis defender Shoja Khalilzadeh are among the Players to Watch at the 2020 AFC Champions league Round of 16.

Esteghlal sealed their place in the Round of 16 in style on Matchday Six after defeating Al Ahli 3-0. Of the six goals they scored in the three-team Group A, only one player scored more than once, Amir Arsalan Motahari.

Despite still being 27, Motahari is an AFC Champions League veteran, having appeared in the competition with four different teams. He made his continental debut in the 2015 edition with Naft Tehran, then returning in 2018 with Tractor FC and last year with Zob Ahan before turning out in the blue of Esteghlal in the 2020 campaign.

Motahari won 21 duels in his four group stage appearances, while his movement off the ball was crucial to both his goals in the competition so far. Against Al-Ahli in Matchday Two he took advantage of miscommunication in the opposition backline to steal the ball and finish from a tight angle, and against Al-Shorta on Matchday Five he was perfectly positioned to follow up a spilled save from the goalkeeper and bag his second goal from just four shots on target this campaign.

Persepolis has found goals difficult to come by before bursting into life in its last match of Group C when it defeated Sharjah to advance in style to the Round of 16, but one man who was an unlikely, yet consistent, source of goals for the Iranians was center-back Shojae Khalilzadeh.

Since moving to Persepolis from Sepahan in 2017, Khalilzadeh has formed a strong defensive partnership with club captain Jalal Hosseini, but the 31-year-old proved he was equally important at the other end of the pitch too, scoring twice in the 2019 AFC Champions League campaign and adding two more this time around.

No player has made more recoveries than Khalilzadeh’s 53 and his 18 clearances are also the highest in the competition, two stats that highlight the important of the Persepolis number 3 in his side’s solid defense which conceded just one goal since the resumption of the competition in Qatar.

Salman Al Muwashar, Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA) Jalolidin Masharipov, Pakhtakor FC (UZB), Pedro Conde, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai FC (UAE), Abdulmajeed Al Swat, Al Taawoun FC (KSA), Abderazzak Hamdallah, Al Nassr FC (KSA) and Baghdad Bounedjah, Al Sadd SC (QAT) are the other six players to watch in the Round of 16.

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