Preview: Foolad Sepahan v Al Ahli

The should be a closely fought battle between the Iranian champions and Saudi giants.

The should be a closely fought battle between the Iranian champions and Saudi giants.

Team: Foolad Sepahan

Overview: Foolad have gone back-to-back-to-back in the Iranian League and are now shooting for their fourth straight title, but while they have managed to dominate at home recently, greater success in Asia has eluded them.

That might be all about to change. A near perfect preliminary campaign saw them cruising in Group C, with a shock loss to Lekhwiya in Qatar the only blemish, and since then they have bolstered their striking stocks markedly to go with their notoriously stingy defence (at the end of the previous Iranian season they conceded just 27 times in 34 games).

Their defence wins them games and they would be salivating at the prospect of taking on Al Ahli in the quarter finals, a team who have not beaten them in two matches and have one of the poorest records in Asia, away from their native Saudi Arabia.

Key stat: They have conceded just four goals all competition, but half of those have come against current opponents Al Ahli.

Big issue: Dominant in Iran, not so in Asia. Aside from being Runners up in 2007 and quarter finalists in 2011, Sepahan have been bundled out at the group stage every other year they have contested, and they have contested every year since 2004, with the exception of 06.

Key Player: Like Al Ahli it is a man new to the club and an imported player in Montenegro international Radomir Dalovic (pictured).

The European has a knack for scoring goals and has bagged three in his five starts so far for his new club, bringing the goalscoring power they so sorely need.

The story so far: Group stage - def Al Nasr 1-0, drew 1-1 v Al Ahli, def Lekhwiya 2-1, def by Lekhwiya 1-0, def Al Nasr 3-0, def Al Ahli 2-1

Round of 16 - def Esteghlal 2-0

Team: Al Ahli

Overview: Having finished their last domestic season on a high with second in the Saudi Pro League, Al Ahli have set their sights on going one better this season.

They began their campaign with a 5-0 thumping of Al Shoalah, showing they haven-t really missed a step since sending Lucas Neill-s then side Al Jazira packing from the AFC Champions League in a tense penalty shoot out.

This ACL season represents the first time the club has made it past the group stage since 2005 and while they haven-t done it in style, they have certainly built themselves as a team throughout the competition, overcoming a slow start to eventually become a force to be reckoned with and advancing from their group despite having trouble with Foolad.

They then went on to win their penalty shoot out and show great nerve in front of goal and while they would love nothing more than to see a possible semi-final match-up with traditional rivals Al Ittihad come to fruition, it-s a long way off with Foolad Sepahan again standing in the way.

Key stat: Al Ahli have won just two of their last nine away matches in the AFC Champions League, meaning they will have to be exemplary when playing at home in the knockout stages.

Big issue: How do they consistently break down the stingy Foolad defence? The Iranian champions have conceded just four goals all competition and while two of them have been to Al Ahli, they might need to score more than one goal per game to stop the Iranians.

Key Player: If there is an answer to improving their attack it might well lay with club new boy Diego Morales. The attacking midfielder has some pedigree and will definitely bring more flair to the attack of his side.

The story so far: Group stage - def by Lekhwiya 1-0, drew 1-1 v Foolad, def Al Nasr 2-1, def Al Nasr 3-1, def Lekhwiya 3-0, def by Foolad 2-1

Round of 16 - def Al Jazira on penalties 3-3 (4-2)