AFC Cup 2017: Matchday Five - West Zone preview - Crunch clash beckons for defending champions

The group stages of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup is nearing its business end with matchday five upon us in the West Zone. With only the three group winners and the best second-placed team going through to the West Zone playoffs, it's time for the teams to step up.

Let's take a sneak-peek as the twelve teams from this zone battle for survival.

GROUP A

Al Jaish vs Al Zawra'a

Al Ahli (JOR) v Al Jaish (SYR):It's a battle for survival as second-placed Al Jaish visit third-placed Al Ahli for a crucial game in Group A. Al Ahli have five points from four games while Al Jaish sit a point above. As such, a defeat in this game could very well spell the end of their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs. A win, coupled with a loss to Al Zawra'a could also mean the victors might go top of the Group.

As such, this game is very crucial for the dynamics in the group. In the reverse tie, Al Jaish won through 1-0 at home against the Jordanian side on the opening weekend. They will want to repeat the result while Al Ahli will want revenge.

Venue: Amman International Stadium, Amman
Kick-off: April 18, 17:00 UTC+3

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Al Suwaiq (OMA) v Al Zawraa (IRQ):Omanian side Al Suwaiq know that a defeat would spell the end to their campaign when they host group leaders Al Zawra'a of Iraq on Tuesday. Al Zawra'a who had started with two straight draws surged back to the top of the group after back-to-back wins over Al Jaish and will be high on confidence. A win in this game, coupled with a draw in the other group fixture could see the Iraqi side qualify to the playoff.

In the reverse tie on matchday one, both teams played out a 0-0 draw but Al Zawra'a have momentum with them this time around. The Iraqis welcomeAbbas Al Kaabi from suspension while Al Suwaiq havemidfielder Omer Al Fazari available after a suspension.

Venue: Amman International Stadium, Amman
Kick-off: April 18, 17:00 UTC+3

GROUP B

Air Force Club vs Al Wahda

Al Wahda (SYR) v Al Hidd (BHR):Group B is extremely tight at the top of the table with three teams separated by only two points. Group leaders Al Wahda have eight points while Al Hidd and defending champions Al Quwa Al Jawiya are tied on six points. As things stand, a win on Tuesday could see Al Wahda consolidate their pole position while an Al Hidd win will set things up for a very interesting matchday six.

Al Wahda would do well to heed the danger posed by Al Hidd, who after being defeated in the opening two fixtures came back strongly to register six points in the previous two games. The Syrian side will love to replicate the 1-0 result from matchday one while Al Hidd will be pumped up to make amends and overtake their opponents on the table.

Venue: Saida Municipal Stadium, Saida
Kick-off: April 18, 15:15 UTC+3

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Air Force Club (IRQ) v Safa (LIB):Defending champions AirForce Club cannot afford not to win against Lebanese side Safa SC on Tuesday, if they hope to keep up their title defence beyond the group stage. A win, coupled with a draw or a loss to Al Wahda in the other game, could see Air Force Club regain the top spot but it is definitely not in their hands. Safa, meanwhile, do not have any hope of qualifying as Group winners but could take their chances to be the best second-placed side if they win both their remaining games.

In the reverse fixture on matchday one, Air Force Club were held to a draw by Safa and they have never got their campaign going since then. The Iraqi club will be desperate to win this game and hopefully boost their charge.

Venue: Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: April 18, 18:00 UTC+3

GROUP C

Saham vs Al Wehdat

Nejmeh SC (LIB) v Al Wehdat (JOR):Jordanian side Al Wehdat can consolidate their position atop Group C if they beat Nejmeh SC on Tuesday in Saida. Leading the group with eight points from four games, Al Wehdat are well placed to win against bottom-placed Nejmeh SC whofaceelimination if they lose this game. While Nejmeh will put up a fight, Al Wehdat are expected to reap all three points.

In the reverse fixture on matchday one, Al Wehdat won 1-0 against the Lebanese side who, in what is a big blow to them, will be withoutAhmed Taktouk after his dismissal in the previous round.

Venue: Saida Municipal Stadium, Saida
Kick-off: April 17, 15:15 UTC+3

Al Muharraq (BHR) v Saham Club (OMA):Bahrain's Al Muharraq will be hoping for a win against third-placed Saham Club and overtake Al Wehdat to claim the top spot inthe group, in case the Jordanians lose or draw their game. Their opponents,Saham SC, is expected to put up a properfight as the Omanians will be eliminated in case they lose this game.

In what will be a big miss, Saham will not be able tocall on the suspended Musaab Al Sharqi for this crucial game. In the reverse tie between the two sides earlier in the tournament, Saham were the surprising victors, by a 3-2 margin, and they will look to draw inspiration from it. But, momentum is with the Bahrainian club who will do well to avoid a surprise defeat.

Venue: Bahrain National Stadium, Manama
Kick-off: April 17, 18:45 UTC+3

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