Given the two sides’ legendary status on both the home and continental stage, Group D’s top-of-the-standing meeting looks set to capture the most attention. Both teams are among the most successful in their respective leagues, with Persepolis the nine-time Iranian champions while Al Hilal have prevailed in the Saudi championship a record 13 times. Adding to their unrivalled domestic achievements, the Riyadh giants have secured continental silverware on four occasions with two Asian Club Championships and two Asian Cup Winners’ Cup titles, while the Iranians lifted the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991.
Both have not been firing on all cylinders on the local front this season, with Al Hilal conceding the league title to Al Shabab after finishing third, while Persepolis are languishing in 11th following a recent 4-1 defeat at Teraktor-Sazi. However, the Tehran club have impressed in Asia this year, enjoying a two-point lead ahead over Al Hilal with a draw enough to see them through. The home side will look to the scoring-form of Libyan striker Eamon Zayed and captain Ali Karimi with each having scored three times to date. The visitors, for their part, will count on their Moroccan striking-ace Youssef El Arabi. Qatar’s Al Gharafa, meanwhile, face a must-win scenario against bottom side Al Shabab if they are to maintain their ambitions.