AFC Champions League: Second round preview
The Asian Champions League has reached the knockout stages with only one Japanese team qualifying
Saudi Arabia and Qatar can boast the most participants in the last 16, with three each, which in a rather cruel twist of fate, the draw actually paired them all together, so there is Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar tie three times in the last-16.
Japanese participation has dropped from four in the group stage to a solitary one in the last 16, with just Kashiwa Reysol.
China will be hoping their two remaining participants can bring success, whilst South Korean’s sides will be hoping to keep up the recent good run of making the final.
Starting with the Saudi vs Qatar battles; Al Gharafa (Qatar) welcomes Al Shabab (Saudi) to Qatar in the first leg. Gharafa finished second in their group and will face a tough battle against Shabab, who are currently third in their domestic league. Gharafa meanwhile sit sixth in the Stars League of Qatar.
El Jaish (Qatar) vs. Al Ahli (Saudi): Last year’s finalists Al Ahli, face the task of overcoming El Jaish who finished second in their group behind, Al Shabab. Ahli are yet to taste defeat in this year’s competition and will hope to continue that in the last 16. After last year’s heartbreak, Ahli would love nothing more than the chance to get to the final once again.
Al Hilal (Saudi) vs. Lekhwiya (Qatar): Hilal actually gained more points than Lekhwiya in this year’s group phase, yet Lekhwiya finished top of their group, which may prove that Hilal have already faced better competition than Lekhwiya this year. Hilal have actually won the competition twice before, albeit before the format change in 2002/03.
Kashiwa Reysol (Japan) vs. Jeonbuk Motors (South Korea): With all but one of J1’s teams failing to make this year’s knockout stages, Japanese hopes are left on the shoulders of Reysol. They face former champions Jeonbuk Motors, in which should turn out to be one of the clashes of the round. Both clubs are yet to lose in this year’s competition. Anyone’s guess on who will prevail in this tie.
Al Shabab Al Arabi (U.A.E) vs. Esteghlal (Iran): A battle between teams from the UAE and Iran are on show here, as former champions Esteghlal, look to move through to the quarter-finals. Esteghlal finished top of their group, whilst Al Shabab finished second in theirs suffering three losses in the process, however their three wins proved vital.
Buriram United (Thailand) vs. Bunyodkor Tashkent (Uzbekistan): After four draws and two wins, Bunyodkor eventually secured passage through to the last 16 and their reward, a trip to Thailand to face Buriram United.
Buriram went through thanks to a superior goal difference after finishing on seven points. Another one that will be a clash to watch, Bunyodkor perhaps stronger may well progress.
Central Coast Mariners (Australia) vs. Guangzhou Evergrande (China): A great match in prospect here, with Evergrande along with Beijing Guoan hoping to be the first Chinese side to win the Champions League since Liaoning back in 1990. It will be an interesting battle as the team from down under look to progress to the quarter-finals.
Beijing Guoan (China) vs. Seoul FC (South Korea): Seoul will be hoping that they can copy the example set by past South Korean sides and make the Champions League final. Korea can boast an impressive four appearances in the last four finals. Like Evergrande, Beijing will be hoping to progress as far as possible in this tournament, but are unlikely to come out on top come the end of the season.
All of these games take place over two legs, and are scheduled for 13/14 and 20/21 May.
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