After a knockout stage full of drama and surprises, only one thing is certain ahead of the AFC Champions League semi-final round: whoever progresses will be reaching the final for the first time in their respective histories.

Few would have predicted that a team from Syria could eliminate reigning champions Al Ittihad, or that a Kuwaiti side would humble last year's runners-up, Al Ain. That, however, is exactly what transpired, and the end result is that these west Asian neighbours, namely Al Karama and Al Qadisiya, are now within 90 minutes of an historic final appearance.

In the Far East, meanwhile, history is also in the making. While it will be 47th occasion that K-League rivals Jeonbuk Motors and Ulsan Horang-i of Korea Republic have locked horns in competitive action, this is the first time that two teams from the same country have met in this particular competition since its relaunch in 2002.

Homs advantage
The battle of the giant-killers begins when Al Karama host Al Qadisiya in Homs for the first leg.

The Syrian outfit have made their home ground something of a fortress, winning all four matches at the Khaled Bin Al Waleed Stadium in this year's competition, including a breathtaking comeback against Al Ittihad in the quarter-final second leg last Wednesday. The home side were trailing by two goals before the kick-off but they managed to draw level with strikes from Iyad Mando and Ahmed Al Omeir on 41 and 44 minutes, and victory was sealed in extra time thanks to 20-year-old Mohanad Ibrahim's dramatic double.

However, if Al Karama have been strong at home, their Kuwaiti visitors have been equally impressive on their travels. Most impressive of all was their quarter-final win over Al Ain, with a 2-2 home draw followed up by a stunning 3-0 away victory that saw them clinch a semi-final berth in some style.

The only concern for Al Qadisiya is on the injury front, with their leading scorer, Bader Al Mutwa, likely to miss the first leg after picking up an injury in that memorable triumph over Al Ain. This has only added to the worries of coach Mohammed Ibrahim, who has admitted that Al Mutwa could be joined on the sidelines by team-mates Khalaf Al Salama, Fawzi Bashir and Abdulrahman Al Mousa.

Korean derby
In the other semi-final first leg, Jeonbuk Motors will entertain the Korea Republic champions Ulsan in the Jeonju FIFA World Cup Stadium. Tension is high in the home camp as the Motors have been sputtering in the domestic league this season, with only four wins from 19 matches played so far.

Nevertheless, the Korean FA Cup holders have looked considerably stronger on the Asian stage, and have now reached the semi-finals for the second time in three years. Their strength of character was also on display in the quarter-finals, when they came from a goal down to beat Shanghai Shenhua 4-2, advancing 4-3 on aggregate.

Motors also boast a 100 percent record at home; although few would dispute that Ulsan, known as the Tigers, currently look to be more dangerous in attack. Coach Kim Jung-Nam will be relying on the finishing touches of Brazilian striker Machado and Korea Republic international Choi Sung-Kuk, who scored twice against Al Shabab in the quarter-finals, as the team's star forward, Lee Chun-Soo, has been ruled out of the first leg with an ankle injury.

The prize on offer, of course, is a place in the final, which will be played over two legs on 1 and 8 November, with the AFC Champions League winner automatically guaranteed a berth at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006.

Semi-final first legs
27/9/06
Al Karama - Al Qadisiya
Jeonbuk Motors - Ulsan Horang-i
 
Semi-final second legs
18/10/06 
Al Qadisiya - Al Karama
Ulsan Horang-i - Jeonbuk Motors

Final first leg
1/11/06
Winner SF1 - Winner SF2
 
Final second leg
8/11/06 
Winner SF2 - Winner SF1