As the AFC Champions League's West group stages come to an end, many of the tournament's stars have carried their sides and sparkled as expected.
Mehdi Torabi, has repaid Persepolis FC's faith and spearheaded the attack for the Iranian giants on his return from Qatar's Al Arabi SC. With two goals and three assists, the 26-year-old winger has guided his team to the top of their group and earned them a knockout stage berth.
Santi Cazorla and Al Sadd SC, on the other hand, started slow and collected just one point from their first two matches. Since then, however, the former Arsenal midfielder has helped lift Xavi Hernandez's side to two wins and to within one point of group leaders Al Nassr FC.
Michael Olunga (Al Duhail SC) and Caio Fernandes (Sharjah FC) have propelled their sides to the top of their groups while new faces have impressed as well. Foolad's Chimba has kept his team in the running for the knockouts while Dheeraj Singh's goalkeeping heroics have earned debutants FC Goa respect among Asia's elite clubs.
There are also players who have yet find that other gear and will need to do so in order to rescue their team's Asian Champs League campaign. Bafetimbi Gomis, who led Al Hilal SFC in scoring during their winning season in 2019, has only found the target twice in ACL 2021.
Al Hilal, one of the tournament favourites, have struggled in a relatively easy pool the features UAE's Shabab Al Ahli Club and Uzbekistan's FC AGMK. Manager Rogerio Micale will need his 35-year-old striker to deliver in their final group ties if they want to leapfrog FC Istiklol to the summit of Group A.
Like Gomis in 2019, it was Omar Kharbin who took up the scoring duties for Al Hilal in their run to the final in 2017. Returning to the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2017 with Al Wahda FC, Kharbin did not score until his fourth matchday this season -- a crucial 1-0 win over Al Rayyan SC.
Al Wahda are in a race to finish as one of the three best second-placed teams to progress as Persepolis lead Group E with 12 points. With matches against the group toppers and a resolute Goa next on the agenda, the Syrian attacker will have to sharpen his finishing skills if Henk ten Cate's men are to book a Round of 16 berth.
Two goals in four outings is not necessarily bad reading for a striker, but expectations are high if your name is Abderrazak Hamdallah. The Moroccan striker had equaled a record by scoring in nine consecutive ACL matches over the last two seasons of ACL and was also the joint top scorer in the tournament's last edition with seven goals for Al Nassr FC.
Hamdallah did strike exquisitely in a 2-0 win for Al Nassr against Foolad on Saturday to push his club to the top of Group D with eight points in the bag, but he will have to write his name onto the scoresheets more often, what with Al Sadd breathing down their necks sitting only one point behind and the Iranians also three points away.
The onus will also be on Al Ahli SFC's Omar Al Somah and Pakhtakor's Dragan Ceran to step up and deliver in the two remaining matchdays as their clubs turn to their individual prowess to overcome difficult challenges in front and secure a place in the next round.