Matchday Four: Central, South & East Zones Previews
Kuala Lumpur: The 12 teams in the Central, South and East Zones of the 2019 AFC Cup return to action on Wednesday with plenty to play for across the three groups.
Tajikistan’s FC istiklol, India’s Chennaiyin FC and 4.25 SC of DPR Korea lead the way in Groups D, E and I respectively and further wins would edge them ever closer to the knockout rounds.
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Two-time runners-up Istiklol are three points clear at the top of Group D after their 4-1 victory over Kyrgyz Republic’s Dordoi FC two weeks ago and the sides will face off for the return meeting in Bishkek on Wednesday.
Dordoi, who welcome Azamat Baimatov back from suspension but are without the banned Mustafa Iusupov, prop up the table having lost their past two matches and defeat would spell elimination with two games still to play.
Elsewhere, third-placed Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan host second-placed FC Khujand of Tajikistan with both teams aiming to stay in touch with the group leaders.
The goalless scoreline between the pair two weeks ago means Altyn Asyr have drawn all three of their games and the 2018 runners-up will be desperate to pick up their first win, although they are without the suspended Zafar Babajanov.
Dordoi FC (KGZ) vs FC Istiklol (TJK)
Venue: Dolen Omurzakov Stadium, Bishkek
Kick-off: May 15, 20:00 UTC+6
Altyn Asyr (TKM) vs FC Khujand (TJK)
Venue: Kopetdag Stadium, Ashgabad
Kick-off: May 15, 18:30 UTC+5
Chennaiyin will look to extend their lead at the top of Group E when they travel to Bangladesh to face Abahani Limited Dhaka, who sit three points back in second place.
Anirudh Thapa scored the only goal of the game as the Indian side claimed a 1-0 win over Abahani two weeks ago and back-to-back victories would make them strong favourites to progress to the Inter-Zone semi-finals.
After Oluwawunmi Somide’s last-gasp equaliser secured Manang Masrshyangdi Club a 2-2 draw away at India’s Minerva Punjab on Matchday Three, the Nepalese side will look to build on claiming their first-ever AFC Cup point.
Minerva, meanwhile, have drawn three games in a row and must turn draws into wins if they are to have any chance of catching compatriots Chennaiyin at the top of the table.
Abahani Limited Dhaka (BAN) vs Chennaiyin FC (IND)
Venue: Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka
Kick-off: May 15, 19:00 UTC+6
Manang Marshyangdi Club (NEP) vs Minerva Punjab (IND)
Venue: ANFA Complex, Kathmandu
Kick-off: May 15, 15:00 UTC+5:45
Table-toppers 4.25 SC will confirm their passage to the Inter-Zone semi-finals if they defeat Hong Kong’s Wofoo Tai Po in Pyongyang and Kitchee SC fail to claim all three points against Chinese Taipei’s Hang Yuan FC.
Kim Yu-song netted twice as the side from DPR Korea claimed a 3-1 win in the reverse fixture two weeks ago and should they make it successive wins over second-placed Tai Po, the Hong Kong club – who are without the suspended Igor Sartori – would be unable to catch them.
The second Hong Kong team in the group, Kitchee, won their first game of the campaign when they beat Hang Yuan 3-0 on Matchday Three and should they win in Taipei they will remain in the hunt for qualification, although they are unable to call on Li Ngai Hoi, who is serving a one-match ban.
Hang Yuan are without a point in the group so far and will hope home comforts can inspire them to produce their finest performance yet. Even if they win, however, their exit will be confirmed should 4.25 avoid defeat.
4.25 SC (PRK) vs Wofoo Tai Po (HKG)
Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang
Kick-off: May 15, 17:00 UTC+9
Hang Yuan FC (TPE) vs Kitchee SC (HKG)
Venue: Taipei Municipal Stadium, Taipei
Kick-off: May 15, 19:00 UTC+8
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