Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal and Urawa Red Diamonds will take commanding leads into the second legs of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals this week with Al Sadd and Guangzhou Evergrande needing to reverse first-leg deficits in order to progress to the final.
As things stand, Al Hilal hold a three-goal lead over Al Sadd ahead of their clash in Riyadh on Tuesday and Urawa take a two-goal advantage to southern China a day later. With the final line-up to be confirmed this week, here’s the-AFC.com’s five things to look out for.
We have no other option but to attack, says Huang Bowen
Guangzhou: Midfielder Huang Bowen has insisted that Guangzhou Evergrande will throw caution to the wind on Wednesday in their bid to overturn the 2-0 deficit they face in the semi-final second leg against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Seven times Guangzhou have faced J.League opponents in the AFC Champions League knockout stage, and seven times it has been the southern Chinese side that has emerged victorious.
But at Tianhe Stadium on Wednesday, they face arguably their biggest test yet as they are up against an Urawa side that bring with them a 2-0 lead from the first leg.
A veteran of 12 AFC Champions League tournaments so far, and a winner in 2013 and 2015, Huang Bowen knows full well the challenge his side face.
Guangzhou: Urawa Red Diamonds defender Tomoaki Makino admitted the pressure is on the Saitama side to see out Wednesday's semi-final second leg against Guangzhou Evergrande and ensure a third consecutive Japanese team reaches the AFC Champions League final.
In 2007, Urawa made history as the first J.League club to be crowned Continental kings since Asia's premier club tournament underwent a revamp in 2002-03 to become the AFC Champions League.
A decade later, Urawa repeated their efforts to join Wednesday's opponents Guangzhou, Korea Republic's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia as the only two-time winners of the AFC Champions League.
Kuala Lumpur: When Bafetimbi Gomis bagged a brace in the first leg of the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final against Al Sadd, not only did he make up for his earlier own goal en route to a 4-1 victory, he also moved joint top of the scoring charts.
Gomis and Leonardo – who has left Al Wahda to join Shabab Al Ahli since the Emirati side were eliminated – are tied with nine goals apiece, but with the Saudi team potentially having three more games to play, the Frenchman is the favourite to win the top scorer award come November 24.
But, while one more goal would see the Al Hilal target man take pole position, there remains a chasing pack who will have one eye on the accolade. Ahead of the semi-final second legs next week, the-AFC.com takes a closer look at the contenders.
East Asia Domestic Wrap: SIPG top Beijing FC; J.League title race heats up
Kuala Lumpur: Shanghai SIPG secured a big win away at their Chinese Super League title rivals, while Yokohama F. Marinos made up ground on the top two as the hunt for the Japanese championship became a three-way race.
Following the international break, the domestic action in East Asia returned with a bang as the leagues in Japan, Korea Republic and China PR enter the business end of season, while the Hong Kong and Mongolia Premier Leagues also saw some intriguing ties.
West Asia Domestic Wrap: Perfect tuneup for Al Hilal
Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal SFC received a morale booster ahead of Tuesday's 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals second leg with a big win that kept them on top of the Saudi Pro League on Friday.
Al Sadd, who face Al Hilal in Tuesday's Continental semi-final, were not in action as their Qatar Stars League tie was postponed, UAE Pro League defending champions Sharjah continued their perfect record and Kuwait SC maintained their unbeaten run in Kuwait.
Join the-AFC.com reviews the domestic action in West Asia.
Elkeson can be difference-maker at Tianhe, says Paulinho
Guangzhou: Star midfielder Paulinho believes naturalised China PR forward Elkeson may be the man who can re-ignite Guangzhou Evergrande's 2019 AFC Champions League final hopes ahead of Wednesday's semi-final second leg against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Japan after goals from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine, two-time Continental champions Guangzhou are up against it when they host Urawa at Tianhe Stadium in the return meeting of their final four tie.
However, the southern Chinese heavyweights have not yet lost hope. A 21-match unbeaten record in the AFC Champions League on home soil is an excellent foundation for faith and a stacked attacking line-up including some of China and Brazil's top talent is capable of finding the goals needed.