Kuala Lumpur: AFC Champions League 2012 runners-up Al Ahli will go head-to-head with Korean opposition in continental competition for the first time since losing to Ulsan Hyundai in last year’s ACL final after the 2013 Knockout Stage draw pitted the Jeddah giants against FC Seoul in the quarter-finals.
Al Ahli have been in fine form in this year’s edition of Asia’s premier club competition having won four and drawn two of their group stage games before going on to defeat Qatari debutants 3-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16.
Al Ahli progressed to the last eight under Aleksandar Ilic but the Saudis have since dispensed with the services of the Serb strategist in favour of Vitor Pereira and the former Porto manager will need to gel quickly with his players before they take on an FC Seoul side looking to become fifth Korean side to lift the ACL trophy since 2006.
The ever-increasing competitiveness of Asian football has resulted in a quarter-final line up that features no previous AFC Champions League winners although Iranian giants Esteghlal are no strangers to continental glory having won the Asian Club Championship in 1991 and 1970.
And the Tehran titans provide the opposition for Buriram United, the first side from Thailand to reach the knockout stage since inaugural runners-up BEC Tero Sasana in 2003, in what is a fascinating match-up between the veteran campaigners and the new kids on the block.
The remaining quarter-final match ups serve up mouth-watering East-versus-West clashes with big-spending Chinese champions, who are led by Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi and boost the 2013 ACL’s leading scorer Muriqui (Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva), locking horns with Lekhwiya, two-time champions of Qatar, and Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol taking on 2010 AFC Champions League semi-finalists Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia.
The first leg of the 2013 AFC Champions League quarter-finals will be held on August 21 with the return fixtures taking place on September 18.