Round of 16 set to thrill
Kuala Lumpur: The Continent’s top 16 teams advanced to the knockout stage of the 2018 AFC Champions League as the group stage concluded on Wednesday.
The Round of 16 stage promises to be a thrilling affair with several former AFC Champions League winners taking their place alongside teams who will be aiming to win the coveted title for the first time.
Among those seeking to win the title for the first time will be Qatar’s Al Duhail, who advanced to the last 16 stage with a perfect record of six wins in Group B.
Al Duhail’s title ambitions are sure, however, to be tested by Al Ain. The United Arab Emirates club were champions in 2003 and more recently, quarter-finalists in 2017.
With 2017 champions Urawa Red Diamonds failing to qualify for the 2018 AFC Champions League and runners-up Al Hilal eliminated in the group stage, last year’s semi-finalists Persepolis and Shanghai SIPG will be aiming to go one better this time around.
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis, who finished as Group C winners, will play Al Jazira of the UAE in the last 16 while China PR’s Shanghai SIPG, the Group F winners, will face Japanese side Kashima Antlers.
Two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will face Thailand’s Buriram United with the Korea Republic club last having tasted AFC Champions League glory in 2016.
Guangzhou Evergrande, also two-time AFC Champions League winners, will square off against fellow Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian.
There will be an all-Korean affair between Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Ulsan Hyundai, both former champions, while Zobahan and Esteghlal, also two-time winners, will square off in an all-Iranian tie.
Qatar’s Al Sadd, twice winners, will face two-time runners-up Al Ahli in the remaining Round of 16 tie.
ROUND OF 16
1ST LEG FIXTURES (MAY 7-9)
AL JAZIRA (UAE) v PERSEPOLIS (IRN)
AL SADD (QAT) v AL AHLI SAUDI (KSA)
ZOBAHAN FC (IRN) v ESTEGHLAL (IRN)
AL AIN (UAE) v AL DUHAIL (QAT)
TIANJIN QUANJIAN (CHN) v GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE
BURIRAM UNITED (THA) v JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS (KOR)
ULSAN HYUNDAI v (KOR) SUWON SAMSUNG BLUEWINGS (KOR)
KASHIMA ANTLERS (JPN) v SHANGHAI SIPG FC (CHN)
(Return Leg: May 14-16)