Two local clubs have Champions League playoff dreamsWhen the group stage action in Asia’s top club football competition resumes this week, two Korean teams will try to lock down knockout spots.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Ulsan Hyundai FC are leading their respective groups in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, and they can clinch spots in the round of 16 today.
Jeonbuk, two-time defending K League 1 champions, are at the top of Group G with nine points, two ahead of Beijing FC. These two clubs will clash at Workers’ Stadium in the Chinese capital today at 8 p.m.
Jeonbuk defeated Beijing 3-1 in their previous meeting on March 6.
Even a draw will be enough to send Jeonbuk to the round of 16, since it will still ensure they won’t finish lower than second place in Group G. Urawa Red Diamonds, currently in third with four points, could match Jeonbuk with 10 points at the end of the group stage, but Jeonbuk will have the tiebreak edge after beating the Japanese club in both of their meetings.
In Group H, Ulsan Hyundai are the leaders with eight points, with Shanghai SIPG lurking three points back. And Ulsan only need two more points in their final two matches to qualify for the round of 16.
And they can take care of business by beating winless Sydney FC at Munsu Football Stadium in Ulsan today at 7 p.m. These two clubs had a scoreless draw on March 6.
Tomorrow, two more K League 1 clubs will take the field, seeking to move into the knockout picture.
Gyeongnam FC, the Champions League debutants in Group E, enjoyed their first-ever AFC victory two weeks ago over Kashima Antlers and will seek to make it two in a row against Shandong Luneng at Jinan Olympic Sports Center Stadium in Jinan, China, at 7:30 p.m.
Shandong are the group leaders with eight points, followed by Kashima at seven and Gyeongnam with five. Kashima are widely expected to beat Johor Darul Ta’zim tomorrow to move to 10 points, in which case Gyeongnam would be eliminated with a loss the same day.
Daegu FC will also be in survival mode in Group F, as they host Melbourne Victory at 7 p.m. at Forest Arena in Daegu, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Seoul.
Daegu are in third place with six points, one back of Guangzhou Evergrande and three behind the leaders, Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Daegu beat Melbourne 3-1 on March 5, and another win would get the club closer to a knockout berth. But a combination of a Daegu loss and a Guangzhou win over Hiroshima tomorrow will end the K League 1 club’s bid for their first round of 16 appearance.
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