Al Nasr’s Jires Kembo Ekoko targeting three points against Lokomotiv in final ACL group game

Al Nasr need to simply avoid defeat in Tashkent on Wednesday, given their better head-to-head record against third-placed Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

Jires Kembo Ekoko, right, of Al Nasr. Marwan Naamani / AFP
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Jires Kembo Ekoko says Al Nasr will go all out for victory against Uzbekistan's Lokomotiv to seal a first appearance in the knockout rounds of the Asian Champions League.

The Dubai club, second in Group A, take on the pool leaders in Tashkent on Wednesday in this stage’s final fixture knowing a win or a draw would secure their progression. Nasr need to simply avoid defeat, given their better head-to-head record against third-placed Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

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The 2015 President’s Cup champions have never been beyond the groups in Asia in two previous attempts but, despite requiring only a point at Lokomotiv to make history, Kembo Ekoko says his side seek to better the 1-1 draw between the two teams in Dubai two weeks ago.

“The match against Lokomotiv will be tough, as both teams are equally as strong,” the forward said. “This is what we saw during the first game, which was equal to a large extent. But we are here in Uzbekistan to take all three points and reach the second round.

“There is a wonderful atmosphere within the team and everyone is excited to participate in the game and strives to reach the next stage. Everybody is excited and ready for it.”

Ivan Jovanovic, the Nasr coach, echoed Kembo Ekoko’s sentiments, but added he believes that victory offers his team an easier assignment in the last 16.​

Finish top and Nasr will play Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal for a place in the quarter-finals. Group C was won by Tractor Sazi from Iran.

“We expect the game will be difficult and we will aim to beat them at their home and top the group, as it will help us very much in the second round,” Jovanovic said.​

“We know that a draw is good for both teams and will ensure both qualify, but in games like this we know to expect any result can occur. We should work only to win.”

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