AFC – AHVAZ, Bunyodkor coach Mirdjalal Kasimov has warned his Uzbekistan champions they are facing their last chance to keep their AFC Champions League hopes alive ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Foolad Khouzestan in Iran.
Winless two-time semi-finalists Bunyodkor have only picked two points from their opening three games of the campaign in Group B, with last month’s 1-1 draw at home to Khouzestan only secured thanks to a stoppage time strike from Vokhid Shodiev.
Bunyodkor have never been eliminated in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, and while failure to pick up at least a point at Ghadir Stadium will not end their campaign, it would see them slip further off the pace with just two games remaining with Kasimov’s side currently three points behind Khouzestan and Qatar’s El Jaish.
“I’m sure it will be a tough match for us.
We have to use our last chances to seal our place in the next round,” said Bunyodkor coach Kasimov.
“First of all we are aiming to get one point, and if possible, we want to win the match and return home with all three points.
“Foolad Khouzestan is a very strong and organised team and overall it is going to be a very difficult match for us.”
Kasimov will be without captain and centreback Hayrulla Karimov due to suspension, although counterpart Hossein Faraki must do without midfielder Shahab Karami.
But after Khouzestan moved three points clear at the top of the Iran Pro League with only two games remaining following a 2-1 win over Tractorsazi Tabriz on Thursday, Faraki is eyeing a second win of the campaign for his uneaten side.
“We have collected five points from the first three matches and Tuesday is our first match of the return legs.
We could have won the game against the Uzbek outfit in Tashkent, but we drew 1-1 in dying minutes,” said Khouzestan coach Faraki.
“Qualifying from the group phase will not be easy, but we are determined to fulfill our aim.
“Bunyodkor has a mixture of young and experienced players, but recently they are not doing as well like in the past.
“We are very motivated and determined to win this match to pave the way for a place in the next round.”