The second round of fixtures in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 2017 group stages is upon us.
There were several interesting results in the opening round, including the 7-0 drubbing Guangzhou Evergrande handed out to Eastern SC and the clinical 4-0 victory Urawa Red Diamonds managed against 2014 champions Western Sydney Wanderers.
Lets take a look at what’s in store for us as the teams look to either consolidate their good starts or bounce back from disappointing first round outings.
Lokomotiv Tashkent (UZB) vs Al Ahli (UAE)
Uzbek champions Lokomotiv host Al Ahli on Monday, 27th February, knowing that they have to win against the UAE outfit, given that they fell to 1-0 defeat away to Al Taawoun in the opening round. They were distinctly average in that game and need their captain Timur Kapadze to lead from the front against their opponents.
Al Ahli come into this match in high spirits after notching a dramatic late winner against Al Fateh in the opening round. Makhete Diop has been their trump card and the physical Senegalese will need to be shackled if Lokomotiv have any hope of winning this tie.
Al Ahli are not really the best of travellers but Lokomotiv have historically struggled against teams from UAE, accounting for three draws and a loss.
Venue: Lokomotiv stadium, Tashkent
Kickoff: 27 Feb 2017, 16:00 UTC+5
Esteghlal (IRA) vs Al Taawoun (KSA)
Esteghlal gave a good account of themselves against Al Ahli in the opening round but heartbreak awaited them when Makhete Diop scored a last minute header. They have failed to keep a cleansheet in their last 10 AFC Champions League games and their aim will be to put that right when Al Taawoun come calling on Monday.
The Saudi Arabian team notched a memorable win on their competition debut against Lokomotiv, thanks to a second half goal from Talal Al Absi. A buoyant Al Taawoun are expected to be a match for the Iranian team but it remains to be seen if they can hold themselves together in their first ever away game in the tournament.
Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat
Kickoff: 27 Feb 2017, 19:30 UTC+4
Al Fateh (KSA) vs Lekhwiya SC (QAT)
Saudi Arabian side Al Fateh will be searching for their first ever win in the AFC Champions League when they host a confident Lekhwiya SC on Monday. After falling to a 1-0 defeat to Esteghlal Khouzestan who scored an 80th minute winner, Fethi Jebel’s team will not have it easy against Lekhwiya who are coming off a resounding 3-0 win over Al Jazira.
The Qatari team have hit the ground running and with star striker Youssef El Arabi and Karim Boudief in fine form, they should be the favourites to notch all three points in this fixture.
Venue: Prince Abdullah Bin Jalawi stadium, Al Hasa
Kickoff: 27 Feb 2017, 18:10 UTC+3
Al Jazira (UAE) vs Esteghlal Khouzestan (IRA)
UAE’s Al Jazira have lot of concerns before their Group B tie against Esteghlal Khouzestan. Their opening round defeat to Lekhwiya SC was their 10th game without a win on the continent Moreover they have a terrible record against Iranian opponents, having lost three and drawn one in the previous four games.
Esteghlal Khouzestan, on the other hand, grabbed a memorable win over Al Fateh on their AFC Champions League bow and will be pumped up when they take on Al Jazira, knowing that a win could put them in a really comfortable spot with respect to qualifying for the knockout stages.
Venue: Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kickoff: 27 Feb 2017, 19:30 UTC+4
Bunyodkor (UZB) vs Al Ain (UAE)
The hosts Bunyodkor are not in a good space at the moment as they prepare to take on one of the strongest teams in the tournament, Al Ain. Bunyodkor lost their group opener to Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli 2-0 and are now winless in 15 games in the tournament. Their youthful squad needs to start firing if they garner any hopes of qualifying from this tournament.
But they will be up against an Al Ain side who will be fired up after being held to a draw at home in their opener against Zob Ahan. Last year’s runners up will want to get their campaign up and running and will count on playmaker Omar Abdulrahman to find form as soon as possible. Even with a bad start, Al Ain are clear favourites to pile on the misery for Bunyodkor.
Venue: Bunyodkor stadium, Tashkent
Kickoff: 28 Feb 2017, 18:00 UTC+5
Zob Ahan (IRA) v Al Ahli (KSA)
In the other Group C game, Iran’s Zob Ahan will host Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli with their confidence high after earning a creditable draw against Al Ain in their group opener. But their task will be cut out against the Saudi Arabian champions.
Managed by former Tottenham boss Christian Gross, Al Ahli eased past Bunyodkor in their opening fixture and were extremely impressive in that game. They can take command of the group if they manage to win this game, which they are expected to. But, as we saw last week, Zob Ahan are no pushovers and will put up a tight fight.
Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat
Kickoff: 28 Feb 2017, 19:15 UTC+4
Al Hilal (KSA) vs Al Rayyan (QAT)
Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal host Qatar’s Al Rayyan in their second group stage fixture on Tuesday, looking to improve on their opening round draw against Persepolis. Al Hilal were taken aback by their Iranian opponents in the game and required their star forward Carlos Eduardo to come to their rescue. This time, they are up against a side they take pleasure in defeating. Al Hilal completed a double over Al Rayyan in 2013 and will look to take inspiration from that win.
But the Qatari team are on a high, having defeated Al Wahda 2-1 in the previous game. Moreover, in Michael Laudrup, they have a master tactician who will be hoping to mastermind a second win and take the pole position in Group D.
Venue: Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium, Riyadh
Kickoff: 28 Feb 2017, 19:45 UTC+3
Al Wahda (UAE) vs Persepolis (IRA)
Al Wahda will be desperate to get their first points of the tournament on board when they welcome Iranian outfit Persepolis on Tuesday. Making their first appearance in the tournament since 2011, Al Wahda can ill afford a loss in this game.
Persepolis, on the other hand, earned a good draw against Al Hilal in the first game and are riding high on the domestic front as well. The Iranians will prove to be a tough nut to crack and if their striker Mehdi Taremi comes to the party, could spring an upset over Javier Aguirre’s side.
Venue: Al Nahyan stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kickoff: Feb 28 2017, 19:10 UTC+4
Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) vs Brisbane Roar (AUS)
Ulsan Hyundai were consigned to a surprising 2-0 loss by Kashima Antlers in the first game of the group away in Japan, despite striking the woodwork twice during the match. They are now facing A-League outfit Brisbane Roar who played out a 0-0 draw against Muangthong United at home.
With the group shaping up intriguingly, Ulsan Hyundai cannot afford another loss but Brisbane Roar are known to be better away than at home. The Australian side are yet to win at home in this tournament but have picked up victories on the road. Strange, but Ulsan Hyundai have their warning signs.
This match should be a well contested affair.
Venue: Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium, Ulsan
Kickoff: Feb 28 2017, 19:30 UTC+9
Muangthong United (THA) vs Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Thailand’s Muangthong United picked up only their second ever point in the AFC Champions League when they drew away to Brisbane Roar. Buoyed by that result, they take on FIFA Club World Cup runners-up Kashima Antlers.
Muangthong will bank on their South Korean midfielder Lee Ho, who won the tournament with Jeonbuk Motors last season, to inject some creativity in the side against a formidable opponent. Attacking midfielder Mu Kanazaki was is great form for Kashima in their win over Ulsan with a goal and an assist and he will once again be a key player.
Venue: Supachalasai National Stadium, Bangkok
Kickoff: 28 Feb 2017, 19:30 UTC+7
Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN) vs FC Seoul (KOR)
When Urawa Red Diamonds come up against FC Seoul, memories of a scintillating last 16 tie in 2016 will come to mind. The Korean side managed to prevail on penalty shooout after a thrilling 3-3 draw after 120 minutes. But right now, the Japanese side are on a high after dismantling Western Sydney Wanderers in the opening match of what is a tough group.
Deadly marksman Shinzo Koroki came to the party for the Japanese side in the last round and that bodes well for them against Seoul, who fell to a disappointing loss to Shanghai SIPG last week. The Koreans cannot afford a loss and come out swinging against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Venue: Saitama Stadium, Saitama
Kickoff: 28 Feb 2017, 19:30 UTC+9
Shanghai SIPG (CHN) vs Western Sydney Wanderers (AUS)
Hulk’s stunner might have capped off an impressive performance by Shanghai SIPG in the opening round against FC Seoul, but the failure to translate their dominance into goals will concern Andre-Villas Boas as his side prepare to host Western Sydney Wanderers on Tuesday.
A win will definitely propel them into a position of strength in the group but the Australian side are no slouches. They will be eager to bounce back from the drubbing they received and the 2014 champions cannot be taken lightly.
But with individual quality with the likes of Hulk and Oscar on their roster, Shanghai SIPG are the favourites to claim all three points.
Venue: Shanghai stadium, Shanghai
Kickoff: Feb 28 2017, 19:30 UTC+8
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR) vs Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
South Korean outfit Suwon Samsung Bluewings have an intimidating task at hand when they prepare to host Guangzhou Evergrande who are coming off a resounding 7-0 hammering of Eastern SC. The South Koreans themselves only managed a 1-1 draw away to Kawasaki Frontale. The hosts have not been in good form recently and have a poor record against Chinese teams as well.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side captured everyone’s imagination with that demolition job last week with Alan and Paulinho shining for the Chinese Super League outfit. Though they are playing away, the 2015 champions are comfortable favourites to notch all three points on Wednesday.
Venue: Suwon World Cup stadium, Suwon
Kickoff: March 1 2017, 19:00 UTC+9
Eastern SC (HKG) vs Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
Eastern SC manager Chan Yuen-ting hit the headlines last week when she became the first female to lead a team in a continental match, despite suffering a heavy 7-0 defeat in Guangzhou. The AFC Champions League debutants have exceeded expectations just by reaching this stage but Yuen-ting will be desperate to avoid results like last week when they prepare to host their first ever AFC Champions League game.
Kawasaki Frontale were held to a draw by Suwon Samsung Bluewings last week but are expected to return to winning ways on Wednesday. Eastern SC will hope their players keep their discipline and not end up with 9-men like against Guangzhou.
Venue: Mongkok Stadium, Hong Kong
Kickoff: March 1 2017, 20:00 UTC+8
Gamba Osaka (JPN) vs Jeju United (KOR)
Gamba Osaka host Jeju United on Wednesday after dismantling Adelaide United in the first game of the group 3-0. The Japanese side were efficient and clinical in Australia with Shin Nagasawa and Yasuyuki Konno impressing. Though they are expected to be dominant against Jeju United, the South Koreans are gritty customers.
Making their first ever AFC Champions League appearance since 2011, they deserved more against Jiangsu Suning than the 1-0 defeat with Ramires scoring a late winner. The failure to finish chances off did Jeju United in at home last week and they will be determined to correct it this time around.
Venue: Suita City Football Stadium, Osaka
Kickoff: March 1, 19:00 UTC+8
Jiangsu Suning (CHN) vs Adelaide United (AUS)
Having won their opening group game in a smash and grab performance, Jiangsu Suning will be eager to grab another win when Adelaide United visit them on Wednesday. Should the Chinese side post back-to-back wins, a spot in the knockout stages could become a real possibility.
Adelaide United, at the other end of the spectrum, were decidedly average against Gamba Osaka last week and will need to raise their performance levels by several notches if they hope to get the better of the Chinese outfit. Their star man in defence, Dylan McGowan, scored an own goal against Gamba and had a poor outing. He along with Isaias Sanchez need to step it up.
Venue: Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre, Nanjing
Kickoff: March 1 2017, 19:35 UTC+8