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Breathtaking Classico as AFC Championships quarters pits Al-Nasr against Al-Ahli
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 29 - 09 - 2020

Saudi Arabia clubs, Riyadh based Al-Nasr football club and its rival Jeddah-based Al-Ahli team, are set to face off on the pitch on Wednesday in the breathtaking quarterfinals' match, of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) League Championships 2020.
It is a very rare, exciting and thrilling Saudi Classico to be played, abroad. This is the first encounter between the two giants, in the championships competition, however, it is the third of its kind, in the overall external participations of the two teams.
In addition, the Saudi Classico will witness for the first time the usage of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technique, in the AFC club-wise competitions. VAR will be applicable, during the match, to decide on four cases, only: Goal scoring, penalties, outright red cards and error in identifying a player.
Al Nasr will be looking to create club history by reaching their first-ever AFC Champions League semifinal when they face Al Ahli. While both Saudi teams have never won the competition, Al Ahli did reach the final in 2012, losing to Ulsan Hyundai 3-0.
They have since reached the quarterfinals on two occasions; in 2013 and 2017. Al Nasr, meanwhile, are in the quarterfinal for the second time in a row, having never reached this stage before 2019.
Despite Al Ahli having a relatively superior record in the AFC Champions League, Al Nasr boasts nine Saudi Pro League titles to Al Ahli's three. The two head coaches have taken different perspectives to a match that brings together two sides who know each other so well.
"It is an advantage for both teams to face a fellow Saudi team," said Al Nasr head coach Rui Vitoria. "It makes it easier for the coaches to prepare for the match because we know each other. I like the fact a Saudi team is guaranteed to reach the West final. Of course, I want us to be that team, but I am happy that a team from our league will be in the final of this part of the competition.
"The players will not only be tired in their legs, they will also be tired mentally and with time there is a tendency to lose concentration, so the team that retains more concentration until the end and stays mentally stronger will win."
Al- Ahli Head coach Vladan Milojevic said, "We know in the last game we played extra time and had a long and tiring game, but I feel my players are preparing very well for the game."
"Al Nasr are a strong team with good players. They have a lot of quick and skillful players like Hamdallah, Abdulfattah Asiri and Pity Martinez, but for me, it is about having a good team, not just good individuals, and I am confident that we have a good team.
"We know very well that Al Nasr are a big team and are always competing for the title in the Saudi Pro League, just like us. For me this is a strong derby, and I know both teams will come with motivation, but I believe in my team having the most motivation to go to the next round."
This is the second time in AFC Champions League history that two Saudi teams have faced off in the quarterfinals. Coincidentally, the only other time this happened was last year with Al Nasr and Al Ahli's two city rivals. On the occasion, Riyadh-based Al Hilal beat Jeddah-based Al Ittihad 3-1 on aggregate at the same stage and went on to be crowned champions. — SPA/Agencies


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