Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are leading their Saudi Arabian clubs into the second matchday of the Asian Champions League in starkly different form.
Ronaldo is the Saudi Pro League’s top scorer with 10 goals for Al-Nassr. Neymar has yet to find the net for Al-Hilal.
Hilal coach Jorge Jesus dismissed concerns about the Brazilian, who missed a penalty in a 2-0 win over Al-Shabab on Friday. Neymar has played in four games since joining from Paris Saint-Germain.
‘He has made the team stronger and has contributed a lot and in the future he will become even better,’ Jesus said. ‘We are now looking forward to the next game.”
That comes in the Asian Champions League on Monday.
Al-Hilal, a four-time continental champion, can’t afford many more dropped points after a surprise 1-1 draw with Navbahor of Uzbekistan in the opening Group D game in September.
Neymar narrowly missed a red card in that game and now heads to Iran to take on Nassaji Mazandaran at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. That’s where Al-Nassr defeated Persepolis 2-0 earlier this month.
The top team in each of the 10 groups and the six best-performing runners-up will advance.
Al-Nassr, still seeking a first Asian championship, hosts Tajikistan powerhouse Istiklol.
Saudi Arabia champion Al-Ittihad also travels to Iran to meet Sepahan but likely will be without striker Karim Benzema. The French forward, who has scored three goals since signing from Real Madrid this summer, has missed the last four games.
In the eastern half of the tournament, which is split into two zones until the final, South Korea’s four representatives – Incheon United, Jeonbuk, Ulsan and Pohang Steelers – will take significant steps toward the second stage if they can maintain their perfect records.
Source: National News Agency-Lebanon