AFC – DOHA, Persepolis FC midfielder Kamal Kamyabinia lauded the qualities of former teammate and current Al Duhail winger Ramin Rezaeian ahead of the two sides’ meeting on Matchday Five of the 2020 AFC Champions League Group C on Monday.
A win for the Tehran-based side would mean a guaranteed place in the knockout stage for the third time in four years, while Al Duhail can overtake their opponents into the top spot should they beat them and Al Taawoun fail to defeat Sharjah in the other Monday fixture.
Rezaeian represented Persepolis for two years between 2015 and 2017, contributing to their run to the 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final. He and Kamyabinia lined-up side-by-side in Persepolis’ midfield as they defeated Al Duhail (then Lekhwiya) 1-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16.
“I believe it is a really tough group with all four teams competing for a place in the Round of 16,” said Kamyabinia.
“Al Duhail are a strong team who are capable of going far in this competition. They lost some star names in the summer, but still brought good new players. But we are also a good team and are confident of going through.
“Ramin [Rezaeian] is a really good player and has made great progress since his time with us here. He was at Al Shahania last season and did so well to earn a move to Al Duhail. He is in form at the moment, and we wish him well, just not so well against us on Monday.”
And while Persepolis will be aware of the threat of Rezaeian who scored a sublime free-kick on his continental debut for Al Duhail against Sharjah io Matchday Three, they will be slightly relieved about the absence of suspended centre-back Medhi Benatia from their opponents’ ranks.
“We know this is a strong team which has just won the last two games in the group stage,” said Al Duhail head coach Walid Regragui, who like Benatia, is a former Moroccan international defender.
“We are still unsure whether Karim Boudiaf and Edmilson will be available for selection, they are still recovering. We know with them playing we are stronger because they are really good players, but we played without them from the start just like we played without Asim Madibo and Bassam Al Rawi. It is a difficult competition and everyone has to contribute.”
“We are happy because we feel Dudu is improving. He did not play for six months, so he needed match time to find his rhythm. Almoez Ali scored twice so he is more confident now. Afif and Ramin as wingers are doing so well but I also hope adding Junior Edmilson we can add more technical skills into our game.
“In this competition you need to be strong in defence, and we conceded five in the past two games, so for me that is an area of improvement,” said Redragui.
The two sides met on Matchday One with Al Duhail emerging 2-0 winners. Mario Mandzukic, who has since left the club, opened the scoring and the now injured Edmilson added Al Duhail’s second.
Persepolis head coach Yahya Golmohammadi, meanwhile, praised the state of Qatar and the Qatar Football Association for hosting the 2020 AFC Champions League (West Zone).
“First of all, I would like to thank the state of Qatar and Qatar Football Association for building these stadiums. As a player and now coach I have travelled far and wide, but have never ever seen or experienced such wonderful football arenas with advance technology,” said the former Islamic Republic of Iran international who played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals.
“These venues are not only a credit to Qatar, but to the whole Asian continent.”
“No country apart from Qatar was brave or ready enough to stage the AFC Champions League (West Zone) competition.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to every single one of those involved in bringing Asian club football back to us and made it possible for us to play here. I wish nothing but success for the entire Qatari football family.
“I hope that all Asian countries learn from Qatar and duplicate their efforts to promote football across our continent. It is a huge task and difficult to accomplish. But, we across Asia can achieve this with meticulous planning as did the Qatari football and state authorities.”