Doha: Uzbek champion Pakhtakor will face Iranian club Esteghlal FC in the second game of the round of 16 of the 2020 AFC Champions League at Al Janoub stadium on Saturday.
Pakhtakor returned to the knockout stage for the first time since 2010 after dominating Group B with 10 points. The cancellation of Al Hilal SFC’s results meant that Pakhtakor had secured his place in the next round before launching his Day 6 victory over Shahr Khodro.
Although he has failed to make it to the AFC Champions League twice in the past three years, Pakhtakor holds the record for most appearances in the competition among Uzbek clubs with 14 times. In fact, only Al Hilal, Al Ain and Al Sadd among West Asian teams have played in more editions of the AFC Champions League.
Iranian giant Esteghlal has continued his rebirth in recent years by reaching the knockout stage for the third time in four years after finishing second in Group A. Head coach Majid Namjoo-Motalgh’s men had to dig deep for secure their qualification with a Matchday 6 3- 0 victory over group winner Al Ahli Saudi FC, which helped them overtake Iraqi Al Shorta on goal difference.
Esteghlal’s best moments in continental football date long before the AFC Champions League kicked off. The Iranian side won the Asian Club Championship in 1970 and 1990-91 and finished second in 1991 and 1998-99, but since the competition’s rebranding in 2002-03, 11 previous appearances for Esteghlal have not produced only one semi-final.
Saturday’s match at Al Janoub Stadium is the third meeting between the two perennials in the competition. Their previous two games were in Group B of the 2011 AFC Champions League and saw them trade wins. Esteghlal won 4-2 at Azadi Stadium on Matchday 3 and Pakhtakor responded 2-1 in Tashkent, with current club captain Igor Krimets scoring the winner.
At the time, both teams had been eliminated from the group stage, with group tickets going to Al Sadd and Al Nassr. Since then, Esteghlal reached the semi-finals in 2013, losing to Seoul FC, while Pakhtakor have been unable to make it through the group stage since 2010. Both sides came out in the group stage in their last. appearance in 2019.
Pakhtakor (UZB) v Esteghlal FC (IRN)
Location: Stade Al Janoub
Kick-off: September 26, 8:45 p.m. (UTC + 3)
* The survey ends at 1:30 a.m. (UTC +8) on September 27.