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AFC Champions League Round of 16: Naft Tehran preview

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 22:28
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Naft tehran players

Naft tehran players

Coach Alireza Mansourian insists Naft Tehran’s disappointment of missing out in the Iran league title last week has not dampened spirits ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 tie at Azadi Stadium.

Coach Alireza Mansourian insists Naft Tehran’s disappointment of missing out in the Iran league title last week has not dampened spirits ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 tie at Azadi Stadium.

Naft headed into Friday’s final game of the domestic season knowing victory over table-topping Tractorsazi Tabriz would secure a maiden domestic crown.

But after the pair shared a thrilling 3-3 draw, Sepahan walked away with the domestic honours and Naft were forced to settle for a third-place finish.

“The fact that we lost the Iran league trophy in the last few minutes has not affected us and our incentives and we will do our best to display a good performance,” said Mansourian.

“I am proud of my players. They are very young and have great motivation to play in the knockout stage of the Champions League.”

Continental debutants Naft, who qualified for the group stage via the play-offs, are appearing in the knockout stages having finished second in Group B behind Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates.

Al Ain and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli were the only two sides to progress from the group stage with unbeaten records after Naft’s last 16 opponents won Group D also three wins and three draws from their six games.

“We know them quite well, they are a very strong team,” added Mansourian.

“First of all we will try not to concede a goal, then try to score. If we can score more than two goals, it will be great.

“We have studied every single player from Al Ahli and know them quite well. When we play in the continental arena, we are no longer considered Naft of Tehran, but we are Naft of Iran.

Former finalists Al Ahli also earned their place in the group stage via the play-offs and are looking to maintain a strong recent record in the AFC Champions League having finished as runners-up in 2012 before reaching the quarter-finals a year later on their last continental appearance.

Al Ahli, though, also endured a disappointing finish to the domestic season after Christian Gross’ side missed out on the Saudi Pro League title by four points to Al Nassr having drawn their last two games of the campaign.

And having ended the group stage of the AFC Champions League with a goalless draw in Uzbekistan against Nasaf, Al Ahli have drawn their last three games in all competitions having won the previous three.

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