We're past the halfway mark in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 2017 group stages and matchday four gets started in the West Zone on Monday. Let's take a look at the exciting matchups that await us in this round.
Lokomotiv (UZB) v Esteghlal (IRN):Iranian outfit Esteghlal FC have a golden chance to consolidate their lead atop Group A when they travel to Tashkent to take on Uzbek side Lokomotiv on Monday. Having won the reverse tie in the previous round 2-0, Esteghlal are the clear favourites to win this game and extend their two-point advantage over the second placed teams.
But Lokomotiv are not out of reach yet. They are bottom of the table but only three points behind Esteghlal and a win on Tuesday will pull them level with Esteghlal and throw the group wide open. Lokomotiv Tashkent have only lost one of their last six games on home soil in the AFC Champions League and will be a tough nut to crack.
Venue: Lokomotiv Stadium, Tashkent
Kick-off: April 11, 16:00 UTC+5
Al Taawoun (KSA) v Al Ahli (UAE):Elsewhere in Group A, it's a crucial game between Saudi Arabian side Al Taawoun and UAE's Al Ahli as the two teams are locked in second place with four points each. The reverse tie saw a dour 0-0 draw in UAE but the sides will want to force a result on Tuesday seeing that a win will almost cement a top-two spot in the group.
Moreover, Al Ahli do not have the best of records while playing away against Saudi Arabian sides, with not a single win to their credit. Al Taawoun might fancy their chances as a result but with the likes of Makhete Diop spearheading Al Ahli's attack, it would be best if they were not taken lightly.
Venue: King Abdullah Stadium, Buraidah
Kick-off: April 11, 19:05 UTC+3
Lekhwiya (QAT) v Esteghlal Khouzestan (IRN):The top two sides from Group B lock horns yet again, this time in Doha as they look to gain supremacy as the Group stages enter the business end. The reverse tie finished 1-1 in the last round, a result which meant that Esteghlal Khouzestan maintained their unbeaten run in the campaign. Still, they have only a two point advantage over Lekhwiya which could turnaround in an instant.
Interestingly, Lekhwiya are also unbeaten in the group so far though have drawn two games. But they have been in very good form domestically recently while Esteghlal Khouzestan have not won since early March. This should be an interesting clash.
Venue: Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: April 10, 18:30 UTC+3
Al Jazira (UAE) v Al Fateh (KSA):Al Fateh will be travelling to Abu Dhabi to take on Al Jazira in the other Group B clash on Monday looking to close the distance from their rivals atop the group. They will be buoyed by their first-ever AFC Champions League victory against Al Jazira in the reverse tie, when they won 3-1.Al Fatehwill welcome Nouh Al Mousa back from suspension, in what will be a boost for them.
Al Jazira, though, will be fighting for survival. A loss on Monday could see them crash out of the group and nothing less than three points will do for them. But they will take inspiration from their domestic form, where they are close to landing the Arabian Gulf League title.
Venue: Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: April 10, 1945 UTC+4
Zob Ahan (IRN) v Bunyodkor (UZB): As Iran's Zob Ahan host Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor, catching group leaders Al Ahli, who are three points ahead of them will be one of their main agendas. The reverse fixture saw Zob Ahan win through 2-0 and more misery could be awaiting Bunyodkor on Tuesday.
Bunyodkor have a young team but the inexperience has hurt them. Having lost all their matches so far, another loss will most definitely put them out of contention of progressing from this group. Moreover, Zob Ahan have never been beaten by Bunyodkor in five attempts in the AFC Champions League.
Venue: Foolad Shahr Stadium, Isfahan
Kick-off: April 11, 20:00 UTC+4:30
Al Ain (UAE) v Al Ahli (KSA):The top spot in Group C is up for grabs as UAE's Al Ain battle Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli on Tuesday. Though Al Ahli lead the group currently with seven points from three games, Al Aincould overtake them with a win at home. They will be hoping for playmaker Omar Abdulrahman to come to the party though, for the 25-year-old is extremely vital to their gameplay.
Al Ain are also a tough team to beat at home, having lost just one AFC Champions League game in 18. Both sides played out a highly-entertaining 2-2 draw in the revious round but this time, either team will be hoping to swing the result their way.
Venue: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
Kick-off: April 11, 19:35 UTC+4
Persepolis (IRN) v Al Rayyan (QAT):Group D is shaping up to be closely-fought battle with three teams vying for two places and as such matchday four might just shape the outcome of the group. Qatar's Al Rayyan SC visit Persepolis with a chance to extend their one point advantage atop the group. Interestingly, Al Rayyan gained the pole position after defeating Persepolis in the reverse fixture 3-1 and Michael Laudrup's side will be very eager to repeat the result.
Al Rayyan will welcome back Victor Caceres from suspension but havelost all five of their previous visits to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Persepolis will be looking towards their in-form striker Mehdi Taremi to give them a physicaledge against the Al Rayyan defence which hasn't been the most sturdy this season.
Venue: Azadi Stadium, Tehran
Kick-off: April 10, 19:00 UTC+4:30
Al Hilal (KSA) v Al Wahda (UAE):Al Hilal, who have six points from three games, will be hoping to stake a claim for the top spot when they host bottom-placed Al Wahda on Tuesday. But the Saudi Arabian side will not take them lightly as it was their 2-2 draw with Al Wahda in the previous round that gave Al Rayyan the lead in the group. Al Hilal will be eager to make no such mistakes and claim all three points.
Al Hilal's Al Abid misses this game after he picked up a red card in the last game while Sultan Al Ghafri is suspended for the visitors, who face being cut adrift from the group should they fail to secure a first win of the continental campaign.
Venue: Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium, Riyadh
Kick-off: April 10, 20:00 UTC+3