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Saudi clubs resume AFC Champions League challenge
By Abdullah Al-Hariri Saudi Gazette
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 07 - 04 - 2009

Saudi teams in AFC Champions League start a new phase of challenge with UAE teams in the competition which resumes Tuesday.
Al-Hilal hosts Dubai's Al-Ahli at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh while Al-Jazira of UAE plays Saudi side Al-Ittihad on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Riyadh-based Al-Shabab clash with Sharjah while Dammam's Al-Ittifaq hosts Al-Shabab of UAE at the Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Stadium. The Saudi-Emirates match-up comes within a week after the Saudi national team beat UAE 3-2 in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers in Riyadh.
Only Ittihad Jeddah succeeded to collect all the points in the last two rounds as the team tops Group C with six points, three points clear of Qatar's Umm-Salal.
A win against UAE's Al-Jazira on Tuesday may secure Ittihad half of the way toward the second stage of the competition.
Two-time winner Al-Ittihad arrived in Emirates on Sunday with its full squad which played against Al-Wehdah in the local league on Saturday.
In Group A, Al-Hilal is in a must-win situation as the team drew its last rounds and comes second with two points behind Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor which faces Saba Battery in Iran.
Al-Hilal's new coach George Leekins revived the team's hopes after he led the team to a 2-0 crucial victory over Al-Ittifaq in the local league on Saturday.
The former Belgian national coach, who is on a two-month mission, said that he did not promise to record good results but added that the short period of the contract is enough, only with the players efforts.
“In the AFC Champions League matches, I want to see the team's ultimate performance to secure the passage to the next round and the players promised to assist me and this promise was the main reason behind my deal with the team,” the coach said.
Leekins is worried about the injury list in his side especially in the defense line.
Defender Majed Al-Marshadi is going under an intensive course to recover from his injury that delayed him to join the Saudi national squad in its last match. After Saturday's match, Al-Hilal was hit by the injuries to two more defenders Mohammed Nami and Abdullah Al-Zori who did not take part in Sunday's training session.
The new coach will depend on striker Yasser Al-Qahtani in front line after the player retrieved his usual form after he was dropped from the national squad.
Al-Qahtani, who scored the second gaol against Al-Ittifaq, said that players are optimistic that the team can secure one of the tickets to the second round.
“Al-Ahli have good players and they played a fantastic game against Saba Battery in Tehran but I am sure our team will put up a winning show,” Al-Qahatni said.
On Wednesday, Al-Ittifaq will be looking for a better spot in Group D when the team hosts Al-Shabab of UAE.
Al-Ittifaq is third in the group with thee points following the 2-1 victory over Sepahan of Iran.
Al-Shabab of Saudi Arabia will also try to maintain the top spot in Group B as it plays bottom side Sharjah which has yet to taste victory. __


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