Skip to main content

AFC Champions League: Al Hilal v Western Sydney

Western Sydney will walk onto the pitch at King Fahd International Stadium on Saturday with a 1-0 lead from last week's first leg in Sydney hoping their disciplined defensive style can hold firm, while hosts Al Hilal will again utilise a slick passing and attacking approach.

The Wanderers had to dig deep in defence in the first half at Pirtek Stadium last Saturday before the introduction of Tomi Juric after the break saw the Australia international score a crucial goal.

Juric had not played in over a month due to a groin injury but made the difference in front of Western Sydney's vociferous fans, scoring in the 64th minute from Antony Golec's cross.

But although the Wanderers are used to playing in front of a boisterous crowd, they are set for another experience entirely in Saudi Arabia with more than 65,000 expected at Al Hilal's home ground.

It is the same scenario Popovic's side faced in the quarter-final win over defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande, however, and on that occasion the Wanderers lost the match but scored a crucial away goal - again thanks to Juric - to progress.

A feature of the first leg was Al-Hilal's ability to get in behind the Wanderers back four on the flanks, although their crossing and final pass almost always let them down.

The balls either missed their team-mate altogether or often found a Wanderers defender, who would clear away the danger.

Al Hilal will need more quality in the front third if they are to overturn the deficit and captain Yasser Al Qahtani, who missed the first leg through suspension, is convinced his team will find a way to claim their seventh continental title in all competitions.

"I think the team did well [in the first leg]. We lost the first game but I think we will win the trophy in the second game," the 32-year-old striker said.

"Playing in this game is like a dream. Everybody wants to play in this type of final.

"I wanted to play in the first game but I was suspended, but now I will wait for the coach to play me and I will run until I die as I want to win this trophy."

But Al Hilal has lost three straight games in all competitions, so will need to turn their form around to prevail against Western Sydney, who snapped their own losing streak of two games by winning last week.