Matchday Five: Central, South & East Zones – Preview
Kuala Lumpur: After a month-long break, the 2019 AFC Cup returns in the Central, South and East Zones on Wednesday with plenty to play for ahead of the Matchday Five fixtures
Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol and India’s Chennaiyin FC – Group D and E leaders respectively – will look to edge closer to knockout round qualification while, in the East, DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC need just a point to progress for the third successive year.
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Table-toppers FC Istiklol will aim to at least maintain their one-point lead at the Group D summit when they travel to domestic rivals FC Khujand.
Istiklol, though, suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat to Kyrgyz Republic’s Dordoi FC on Matchday Four to allow Turkmenistan’s Altyn Asyr to move within a point of the two-time runners-up.
Khujand sit three points off Istiklol and, after losing the first match between the pair, have a worse head-to-head record, meaning only victory will keep their qualification hopes alive.
After Altyn Asyr drew their opening three games, Murat Yakshiyev’s goal gave the 2018 runners-up a 1-0 victory over Khujand a month ago to move them within striking distance of Istiklol.
The Turkmen side next host Dordoi, who pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament after Mirlan Murzaev struck the winner against Istiklol to leave just three points separating top and bottom.
Suspensions: None; Available after suspension: Zafar Babajanov (Altyn Asyr), Mustafa Iusufov (Dordoi FC)
FC Khujand (TJK) vs FC Istiklol (TJK)
Venue: 20 Years of Independence of Tajikistan Stadium, Khujand City
Kick-off: June 19, 17:30 UTC+5
Altyn Asyr (TKM) vs Dordoi FC (KYG)
Venue: Kopetdag Stadium, Ashgabat
Kick-off: June 18, 19:00 UTC+5
With two games still to play, Group E remains on a knife edge with Chennaiyin FC on top by virtue of a better head-to-head record against Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka.
But it is Abahani who have the momentum after Mamunul Islam struck the winner in a 3-2 victory over Chennaiyin four weeks ago to throw the group wide open.
The Dhaka side next face Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club, who prop up the standings and know only a win will keep their faint hopes of qualification alive.
Chennaiyin will eliminate their domestic rivals Minerva Punjab with victory in Guwahati, while even a draw might not be enough for Minerva should Abahani claim all three points in Bangladesh.
Minerva must now turn draws into wins after a 1-1 scoreline against Manang in Kathmandu in mid-May made it four successive stalemates for the 2018-18 I-League champions.
Suspensions: Eli Sabia (Chennaiyin FC), Afeez Oladipo (Manang Marshyangdi Club), Joshi Prateek (Minerva Punjab)
Abahani Limited Dhaka (BAN) vs Manang Marshyangdi Club (NEP)
Venue: Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka
Kick-off: June 19, 17:45 UTC+6
Minerva Punjab (IND) vs Chennaiyin FC (IND)
Venue: Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium, Guwahati
Kick-off: June 19, 15:00 UTC+5:30
Six points clear at the top of Group I, 4.25 SC will secure their place in the Inter-Zone semi-finals if they avoid defeat at home to bottom side Hang Yuan FC of Chinese Taipei.
Kim Yu-song scored twice as 4.25 saw off Wofoo Tai Po 4-0 a month ago to maintain their perfect record in the 2019 competition and eliminate the Hong Kong side.
Hang Yuan’s 2-1 loss at home to Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC confirmed their elimination and the Taipei club remain in the hunt for their first-ever points in the tournament.
Kitchee are the only other team still in contention for knockout round qualification after Brazilian Fernando scored the decisive goal against Hang Yuan to keep their slim hopes alive.
If they should defeat domestic rivals Tai Po and 4.25 suffer a surprise home loss, Group I will come down to a final-day showdown between Kitchee and the Pyongyang team in Hong Kong.
Suspensions: Joseph Peterson (Hang Yuan FC), Law Tsz Chun (Kitchee SC), Leung Kwun Chung (Wofoo Tai Po); Available after suspension: Li Ngai Hoi (Kitchee SC)
4.25 SC (PRK) vs Hang Yuan FC (TPE)
Venue: Kim Il-sung Stadium, Pyongyang
Kick-off: June 19, 17:00 UTC+9
Wofoo Tai Po (HKG) vs Kitchee SC (HKG)
Venue: Mong Kok Stadium, Hong Kong
Kick-off: June 19, 20:00 UTC+8
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