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Domestic rivals set to collide in last 16 of AFC Champions League

English.news.cn   2014-05-04 20:27:32

SEOUL, May 4 (Xinhua) -- South Korea are guaranteed representation in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League for a sixth consecutive season with former winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Pohang Steelers facing off in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

Jeonbuk, who won the title in 2006, will entertain K-League Classic champions Pohang at Jeonju World Cup Stadium after finishing second in Group G behind defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande having shared a goalless draw with Australia's Melbourne Victory at the end of last month.

Three-time Asian champions Pohang, meanwhile, comfortably won Group E with an unbeaten record ahead of Japan's Cerezo Osaka to return to the knockout stage for the first time since 2010 with Hwang Sun-hong's side seeking to add to their 2009 AFC Champions League title.

"Facing Jeonbuk or Guangzhou in the next stage is not that desirable, although I expected one of those two teams to be our opponents," said Hwang after the 1997 and 1998 Asian Club Championship winners completed their unbeaten group stage campaign with a goalless draw against Thailand's Buriram United at the end of April.

"No matter which team we are going to face, we are confident we can win this game if we are well prepared."

Jeonbuk are appearing in the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League for a seventh time having lost to Japan's Kashiwa Reysol in the Round of 16 last year following their sole group stage exit a year earlier.

"I think joining the last 16 has never been this difficult before," said coach Choi Kang-hee following the draw with Melbourne having also guided Jeonbuk to the final in 2011.

"We will now do our best to be well prepared for the tournament. The preparations for the knockout stage should be different.

"I expect the tournament to be tougher as it progresses."

China's AFC Champions League hopes, meanwhile, again rest with defending champions Guangzhou, with Marcello Lippi's side travelling to Japan to face Cerezo in their first leg on Tuesday.

Guangzhou, who beat South Korea's FC Seoul in last year's final, did lose twice during the group stage but qualified as Group G winners as Brazilian striker Elkeson scored twice to secure a 2-1 win over Yokohama F. Marinos at home last month.

And Guangzhou will again face Japanese opposition in the Round of 16 after Cerezo secured second place in Group E behind Pohang after recording a 2-1 win over Shandong Luneng in China at the end of April.

Also on Tuesday, with the new tournament format guaranteeing a finalist from the West, two-time AFC Champions League winners Al Ittihad entertain fellow Saudi side Al Shabab, while inaugural winners Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates face compatriots Al Jazira.

Al Ittihad, who won back-to-back AFC Champions League titles in 2004 and 2005, finished second behind Al Ain in Group C to secure a return to the last 16 for the first time since their 2013 semi-final appearance.

"The most important thing is that we didn't lose and this is important for us to continue with the same rhythm," said Al Ittihad coach Khalid Al Koroni following his sides 1-1 draw with Al Ain on Matchday Six.

"It doesn't matter who our opponents will be in the Round of 16 as we have a lot of confidence in our players."

Al Shabab topped Group A ahead of Al Jazira after posting five wins, which included a 2-1 victory over the Emirati side on the final Matchday at the end of April.

Editor: chengyang
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