Battle of the Brazilians and the key match-ups that could decide the Asian Champions League final

John McAuley breaks down the key match-ups that could make all the difference at Saturday night’s first leg in Dubai.

Rodrigo Lima is vital to Al Ahli's hopes of clinching the Asian Champions League title. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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John McAuley breaks down the key match-ups that could make all the difference at tonight’s first leg in Dubai

Rodrigo Lima v Feng Xiaoteng

Al Ahli’s summer signing has been a revelation, scoring at least once in every appearance for his new club. Four goals in as many Asian matches has taken his overall tally to 14 in 12. With Kim Young-gwon suspended for the first leg, keeping Lima, pictured, quiet falls on Feng, Guangzhou’s hugely reliable central defender.


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Kwon Kyung-Won v Elkeson

The goalscoring hero from the semi-final against Al Hilal, Kwon will revert to his usual role here and seek to help keep Guangzhou at bay. A defensive midfielder who fills in at centre-back, Kwon has Elkeson to shackle, among others. The Brazilian has 74 goals in 102 appearances for his club.

Everton Ribeiro v Paulinho

The battle of the Brazilians should have a huge bearing on the game, with Ribeiro at Ahli’s creative hub. He has four goals in the tournament, too. Paulinho sits the deepest of Guangzhou’s midfield, even though he looks to get into the opposition area. Ribeiro’s influence up front could limit his compatriot’s forward runs.