AFC Cup 2017 Final: FC Istiklol vs. Air Force Club preview

Istiklol rejoice
The second-tier club competition in the continent is all set to culminate with the grand finale on Saturday....

The grand final of the AFC Cup 2017 is here with the West Zone champions Air Force Club of Iraq and Inter-Zone champions FC Istiklol of Tajikistan going head-to-head on Saturday. 

After intense and eventful journeys, FC Istiklol will welcome the defending champions Air Force Club at Hisor Central Stadium in Dushanbe. Air Force Club are also looking to defend the title they won last year by beating Bengaluru FC 1-0. 

Only two teams have ever managed to retain the title before and Air Force Club will want to become the third team to do so. 

FC Istiklol, on the other hand, are looking to finally land the title after agonisingly falling short in 2015 in the final against Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim. 

The Tajik champions are yet to taste defeat in the competition and have had a smooth sailing into the final, beating the likes of Bengaluru FC and Ceres Negros of Philippines in the knockout stages. They have won all five of their home games and the fact that the final is being contested at their home gives them an advantage. 

Air Force Club celebrate

But, few would bet against Air Force Club winning the final, given that they have reached this stage without being at their very best, showing impressive resilience to defeat their opponents and come from behind on many occasions, with compatriots Al Zawraa and Syria’s Al Wahda edged out in tight games in the knockout rounds.

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For Air Force Club, Amjed Radhi has popped up with crucial goals while last year's topscorer Hammadi Ahmed seems to have regained his goalscoring touch. For Istiklol, the threat will come from Maunchehr Dzhalilov. 

Russian forward Dmitri Barkov has found his scoring form of late and has struck crucial goals in each of Istiklol’s last three games, while captain Fatkhullo Fatkholoev and his midfield partner Nuriddin Davronov orchestrate the play from the centre of the park.

Venue: Hisor Central Stadium, Hisor
Kick-off: November 4, 18:00 UTC+5