ACL SEMI-FINALS 1ST LEG: AL HILAL V PERSEPOLIS PREVIEW

AFC - Al Hilal host Persepolis in a much-awaited clash in the first leg of their 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, with both sides looking to seize the initiative as they aim to win their first Asian title since the tournament revamp in 2002.

The teams met twice in Muscat during the group stage this year; the first match ended in a 1-1 draw while the return fixture brought about a goalless stalemate.

Al Hilal

Since topping Group D back in May, Al Hilal have kept up their unbeaten run in this year's competition to reach this stage. The Saudi giants defeated Esteghlal Khuzestan 4-2 on aggregate in the Round of 16 before seeing off 2003 champions Al Ain 3-0 in the quarter-finals. 

Tuesday's game will see Al Hilal make their third semi-final appearance in four years and their fans will be hoping for a positive outcome, especially after the impressive victory over Al Ain in the last round.

Carlos Eduardo netted all three goals in that win and his hat-trick heroics increased his personal tally to seven for the tournament.

Al Hilal's attack also features the Syrian forward Omar Khribin, who has scored four times so far. Despite missing the injured Nawaf Al Abed, manager Ramon Diaz can look to key Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Milesi and his contributions from midfield.

Persepolis

Persepolis have had a historic AFC Champions League campaign in 2017, progressing to the Round of 16 where they defeated Lekhwiya of Qatar 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

Branko Ivankovic's men then went one step further when they completed a 5-3 aggregate victory over Al Ahli to book their spot in the semi-finals.

The Tehran-based side showed great spirit and belief in the quarter-finals after overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the first leg before managing to defeat Al Ahli 3-1 in the second leg, despite being a man down since the 12th minute after Kamal Kamyabinia's sending off. 

Mehdi Taremi is the leading scorer for Perspolis in this year's tournament with seven strikes and he has been aided by Godwin Mensha, who has chipped in with two crucial goals off the bench.

Mohsen Mosalman and Ali Alipour have the ability to change the game, with both registering three assists each so far. Mosalman, in particular, has excelled, with his 21 chances created putting him joint-highest among the semi-finalists.

Ones to watch:

Al Hilal v Persepoli

Venue: Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain

Kick-off: September 26, 20:00 UTC+4

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