AFC Champions League 2017: Quarterfinals 1st leg preview

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The first legs of the Round of Eight clashes in Asia's premier club competition is about to commence...

The best eight teams left in the AFC Champions League 2017 are all set to battle it out for a spot in the final four this week as the first legs of the two-legged ties get underway. With anticipation and excitement building up, we take a look at what is in store for us in the continent: 


AL AIN (UAE) V AL HILAL (KSA)


Al Ain vs Esteghlal; Omar Abdulrahman

It is a clash of two heavyweights which will kick the AFC Champions League quarterfinals off as UAE's Al Ain host Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal on Monday at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.

Al Ain, the finalists in 2016, have largely been powered by the brilliance of playmaker Omar Abdulrahman as they finished top of a group containing Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli, Iran's Zobahan and Uzbek side Bunyodkor. Then they went on to blow away Esteghlal 6-2on aggregate after losing the first leg of their Round of 16 clash 0-1. Al Ain also have dangerous players in Caio, Douglas and new signing Marcus Berg.

Al Hilal, on the other hand, comprehensively won their group which consisted of the likes of Persepolis, Al Wahda and Al Rayyan. They eased past Iran's Esteghlal Khouzestan in the pre-quarterfinals 4-2 on aggregate but will face a stern test against Al Ain. The Saudi side will be hoping midfielder Nicolas Milesi and Brazilian Carlos Eduardo will provide the team with attacking impetus. 

Venue: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain

Kick-off: August 21, 19:50 UTC+4


PERSEPOLIS (IRN) V AL AHLI (KSA)


Persepolis's players pose prior to the AFC Champions League qualifying football match between UAE's Al-Wahda and Iran's Persepolis

Iran's Persepolis will host Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli in the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat. 

Persepolis are in unchartered territory, given that this is the farthest they have ever come in this tournament. Persepolis had to largely bank on Mehdi Taremi's goals as they finished second in Group D behind Al Hilal to progress to the knockout stages. Branko Ivankovic’s team went on to pip Qatar's Lekhwiya in the second leg, thanks to an own goal by Lekhwiya defender Chico Flores. Now, they will hope to secure another monumental result by notching a good result at home. 

Al Ahli also advanced from their group as runners-up after being pipped by Al Ain to the top spot. However, the Saudi Arabians outplayed UAE's Al Ahli in the second leg of their Round of 16 clash to book a spot in the quarterfinals. Coach Sergei Rebrov will be hoping his main man, Omar Al Soma will be fit and firing for this one. 

Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat

Kick-off: August 22, 21:30 UTC+5:30


SHANGHAI SIPG (CHN) V GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE (CHN)


Andre-Villas Boas; Shanghai SIPG manager

This is one of the most fascinating ties of the AFC Champions League quarterfinals with the two Chinese Super League giants going head-to-head for a spot in the semifinals. Andre Villas-Boas' Shanghai SIPG will be hosting Luiz Felipe Scolari's Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg on Tuesday. 

Shanghai SIPG have been impressive in their march to the quarterfinals, qualifying from Group F with a game to spare in spite of being pipped to the top spot by Urawa Red Diamonds. But they disposed off Western Sydney Wanderers and FC Seoul in impressive fashion, scoring goals galore in the process. They have already ended the hopes of a Chinese team in Jiangsu Suning in the Round of 16 when Ahmedov and Hulk starred to power them through. They will bank again on Hulk and former Chelsea midfielder Oscar do the star turn against Guangzhou. 

Scolari's side, who have won the tournament twice in the last four years, began their group campaign with a 7-0 win over Eastern SC but a spate of draws saw them progress as runners-up in their group. But Paulinho starred for them as they overcame Kashima Antlers in the Round of 16 and booked their quarterfinal berth. But, they have lost the services of Paulinho to Barcelona which might prove to be a hindrance. 

Venue: Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai

Kick-off: August 22, 17:30 UTC+5:30


KAWASAKI FRONTALE (JPN) VS URAWA RED DIAMONDS (JPN)


Yu Kobayashi; Kawasaki Frontale vs Muangthong United

Kawasaki Frontale will host Urawa Red Diamonds in the first all-Japanese quarterfinal in the AFC Champions League since 2009 on Wednesday. 

Kawasaki Frontale have reached the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time since 2009 and will be hopeful of putting up a good fight against Urawa Red Diamonds at home. Interestingly, they drew their first four games in the group before notching two vital victories to qualify for the Round of 16. But they carried on in that vein and made light work of Thailand's Muangthong United to book a quarterfinal spot. With players like Yu Kobayashi in good form, they will fancy their chances on Wednesday. 

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Meanwhile, the 2007 champions Urawa Red Diamonds will also be super confident going into this game, given that this is their best campaign in the tournament since 2008. Having beaten Shanghai SIPG to second place in their group, Urawa went on to script a stunning second leg turnaround and overcame a 2-0 deficit from the first leg against Jeju United. With contributions from Shinzo Koroki and Tadanari Lee powering them, Urawa will be relishing this matchup. 

Venue: Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, Kawasaki

Kick-off: August 23, 15:30 UTC+5:30

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