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2021 AFC Champions League (East): Five Forwards in Form 

Kuala Lumpur: As the big kick off to the 2021 AFC Champions League rapidly approaches, takes a look at the strikers who are poised to make a difference in the eastern side of the continent.

With no shortage of attacking talent on display, we shine the spotlight on five frontmen who are on fire in their clubs’ domestic campaigns and could be set to bring those hot streaks onto the Asian stage in this year's continental club competition.

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Dejan Damjanovic (Kitchee SC)

A legend of Korean football and one of the most prolific strikers to ever grace the AFC Champions League, it took little time for Dejan Damjanovic to stamp his authority on the Hong Kong Premier League after signing for Kitchee SC in early 2021. Indeed, despite joining after the season had started and spending three weeks in quarantine upon arrival in Hong Kong, the Montenegrin cleaned up at the end-of-season awards.

Damjanovic netted 17 goals in 14 games to finish, by some distance, as the league's top scorer while he also picked up the Hong Kong Premier League's Player of the Year award. His most crucial contribution to date was a brace in the title decider against Eastern SC on the final day of the campaign as Kitchee won 2-0 to be crowned champions.

He may be 39 but there will be no let up for Damjanovic, with his next target being to beat Lee Dong-gook's all-time AFC Champions League scoring record. As it stands, the now retired Lee has 37 goals on the continent while the Montenegrin is one back on 36.

Leandro Damiao (Kawasaki Frontale)

Top scorer in runaway J1 League leaders Kawasaki Frontale's so far unbeaten season, Leandro Damiao in enjoying arguably his best season to date since moving to Japan ahead of the 2019 season. And, after his side missed out on a place in the AFC Champions League last year, he is set to return for his second appearance in the competition.

The 31-year-old former Brazil international currently leads the J1 League scoring charts on 12 goals which include five in his last nine appearances that have helped Kawasaki move an incredible 18 points clear at the top. More than halfway through the season, Frontale have won 17 from 21 and lost none.

But Leandro offers more than just goals to his game. Excellent with the ball at his feet and adept at picking out teammates, he also sits joint top of his side's assists charts with seven to his name. As Kawasaki begin a continental campaign where they chase a first AFC Champions League title, their main striker is in excellent form.

Bergson (Johor Darul Ta'zim)

Johor Darul Ta'zim have become synonymous with star South Americans over the years, with the likes of Luciano Figueroa, Marcos Antonio and Leandro Velazquez all playing significant roles in their success. In Bergson da Silva it seems like the Malaysian champions have acquired another gem who can fire them to yet more glory.

Signed ahead of the 2021 campaign to replace outgoing countryman Diogo, the Brazilian could not have got off to a better start in Johor Bahru, scoring on his debut against UiTM in mid-March and looking unstoppable ever since. The 30-year-old boast 11 goals in 11 games in JDT's quest for yet another title.

The 2021 AFC Champions League will not mark Bergson's first appearance in the competition, however. Back in 2011, he turned out for Korea Republic's Suwon Samsung Bluewings, making two brief cameos off the bench. A decade on he is sure to get more game time and will be looking to continue his rich vein of form to help JDT into the knockout rounds for the first time.

Bill (Chiangrai United)

Now in his fifth season with Chiangrai United, 36-year-old Bill continues to produce the goods. The Brazilian went on an end-of-season scoring streak to ensure his side have already booked their place in the 2022 AFC Champions League as six goals in the final seven Thai League 1 games saw them finish third.

In 2019, Bill fired Chiangrai to their first-ever top-flight title as they qualified for the continental competition for the first time. And it was of little surprise that it was the striker's goals that sealed their first win, a brace against FC Seoul securing a shock 2-1 victory over the Koreans.

Returning for a second time, Chiangrai are looking to go one better than 2020 and make it out of the group stage. Their veteran frontman may be in the twilight of his career but he remains as prolific as ever in front of goal and will be looking to enhance his legendary status in northern Thailand ahead of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

Boris Kopitovic (Tampines Rovers)

As Tampines Rovers prepare to embark on their maiden AFC Champions League campaign, they do so with a striker in red-hot form, with Montenegrin Boris Kopitovic averaging a goal a game in the 2021 Singapore Premier League season.

The 26-year-old made the move from his homeland last year, finishing joint third in the scoring charts and also netting two goals in three AFC Cup games, but he has taken it to a different level in the 2021 campaign as Tampines remain part of a four-way battle for the title.

Kopitovic boasts 11 goals in 11 games this season and five in his past three league outings prior to his team's journey to Uzbekistan. Up against continental giants Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Gamba Osaka, as well as regional rivals Chiangrai United, Tampines will be looking for their star striker to produce the goods in Tashkent.

Poll ends at 16:00 (UTC +8) on June 25.

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