Al Duhail open campaign against Iran’s Esteghlal


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The preliminary stage of 2019 AFC Champions League gets under way in West Asia on Monday and Tuesday with the 16 sides in Groups A to D opening their campaigns.

Reigning QNB Stars League champions Al Duhail open their Group C campaign against Iran’s Esteghlal on 5th March. The kick-off is at the Al Duhail Stadium at 18:15.

The UAE’s Al Ain and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal are the other teams in the group.

When Al Duhail take on Esteghlal, indeed two 2018 quarterfinalists are going face-to-face. Al Duhail had seen their run of nine consecutive wins ended by Persepolis, while Esteghlal were eliminated at the same stage by Al Sadd.

Al Duhail have since strengthened their ranks with the likes of Mehdi Benatia and Shoya Nakajima, while the Tehran giants snapped up striker Godwin Mensha from rivals Persepolis.

Al Duhail matched Ulsan Hyundai’s record of nine successive wins, from 2012, by defeating Persepolis 1-0 in the first leg of quarterfinals. A 3-1 defeat in the return meeting saw The Red Knights exit.

Al Duhail and Al Sadd directly qualified for the group stage of 2019 AFC Champions League by virtue of having finished as winners and runners-up of the 2017-18 season QNB Stars League.

Al Duhail, consisting of many players from Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup-winning squad, are being coached by Portuguese Rui Faria, who replaced Tunisian Nabil Maaloul recently.

Al Duhail have the likes of Amin Lecomte, Benatia, Bassam Al Rawi, Ahmed Yasser, Nakajima, Yousef El Arabi, Karim Boudiaf, Assim Madibo, Paolo Edmilson, Sultan Al Breik, Murad Naji and Luis Martin.

They are in great form, having just defeated Al Ahli by a 6-0 margin in the QNB Stars League.