Al Hilal coach Giorgos Donis is confident last year’s runners-up can rebound from their disappointing defeat to Al Sadd a fortnight ago with a much improved performance against Iranian champions Foolad Khouzestan in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
Former Greece international Donis had only been installed days before the tie with Al Sadd and saw his new side fail to build on their 3-1 opening day victory against Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan as Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal suffered a 1-0 defeat in Doha.
And the two-time Asian champions will face another stern test of their title credentials on Tuesday in Iran against Foolad, who are unbeaten in their last 10 games in the AFC Champions League having began their campaign in Group C with draws against Al Sadd and Lokomotiv.
“The defeat is not the end of the world as we were looking to get a good result, but a few details sealed the match for Al Sadd. We had a good performance in the first half and created several scoring chances, but the last touch was missing,” said Donis following the defeat by Al Sadd.
“We still have a chance and I’m confident that we can make a good comeback.”
Also in Group C on Tuesday, unbeaten 2011 winners Al Sadd entertain Lokomotiv with the hosts looking to extend their lead at the top of the table following their victory over Al Hilal.
Al Sadd’s Khalfan Ibrahim scored the game’s only goal on the half hour mark at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium two weeks ago and the Qatari club were able to hold on to their narrow advantage despite Al Hilal dominating the majority of the second half.
Lokomotiv, meanwhile, claimed their first-ever point in the AFC Champions League last time out after sharing a 1-1 draw with Foolad after Oleg Zoteev’s seventh minute strike was cancelled out by Mehrdad Jamaati 12 minute before half-time in Tashkent.
Uzbekistan’s other representative in action on Tuesday, Bunyodkor, meanwhile, are seeking their first victory of this year’s tournament as the two-time semi-finalists host Qatari champions Lekhwiya, who are also winless in Group A.
In Group A’s other tie, Persepolis of Iran will look to maintain their 100% record with a visit to unbeaten Saudi champions Al Nassr.
Also on Tuesday, table-topping Kashiwa Reysol take on Chinese FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng in Group E with the J.League side looking to build on their emphatic 5-1 win over Vietnam’s Binh Duong two weeks ago.
Shandong, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their 4-1 home defeat by 2006 AFC Champions League winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who face Binh Duong also on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, China’s Guangzhou R&F entertain 2010 champions Seongnam FC of Korea Republic in Group F, while Thailand’s Buriram United face Japan’s Gamba Osaka.
Last time out, play-off winners Guangzhou saw their three-match winning streak come to an end at the hands of Group F leaders Buriram as the Thailand champions won 2-1 in China, while Seongnam secured their first three
points of the campaign following a 2-0 victory over Japanese treble winners Gamba.
Finally, Group G leaders Beijing Guoan of the Chinese Super League host Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds, while Suwon Samsung of Korea travel to Australia to face domestic champions Brisbane Roar.
CAPTION – Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal lost 1-0 to Qatar’s Al Sadd last time out in the AFC Champions League, but the 2014 finalists will look to bounce back against Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan on Tuesday.