Nassaji Mazandaran vs Al-Hilal
Al-Hilal head to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to encounter Nassaji Mazandaran in a must-win AFC Champions League showdown.
Goals on either side of halftime saw Nassaji upset the apple cart and run out 2-0 winners in their opening Group D fixture against Indian side Mumbai City. But since that victory also stands as their only competitive outing since the start of September, a lack of match fitness could pose a genuine threat to Nassaji’s bid to defy the odds again. On a more positive note, after going winless in nine consecutive games between early May and late August, the hosts have strung together back-to-back two-goal margin wins, both of which saw them lead 1-0 at HT. It’s also worth noting that five of Nassaji’s last six goals have come within the opening hour of play, suggesting home fans won’t need to wait long to see their side on the scoreboard.
However, penetrating Al-Hilal’s star-studded defense, featuring ex-Sevilla goalkeeper Bono and Senegalese powerhouse Kalidou Koulibaly, won’t be a walk in the park. Seeking amends for an underwhelming 1-1 home draw against Uzbeki minnows Navbahor Namangan in their Group D opener, Al-Hilal will take the field in a buoyant mood after racking up back-to-back domestic wins ‘to nil.’ Despite boasting the likes of Neymar, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Malcom in attack, Jorge Jesus’ men have found goals surprisingly hard to come by, netting precisely once in three consecutive matches before a 2-0 home win over Al-Shabab last time out. That being said, the record-time Saudi champions have averaged 2.6 goals per away game this term.