Antlers and Guoan clash in Asia

Japanese champions Kashima Antlers and Chinese high-flyers Beijing Guoan meet in a crunch AFC Champions League showdown on Wednesday as the race to the quarter-finals hots up.

The group stage reaches its halfway point with only three of the 28 teams having a 100 per cent record after the opening two games - former champions Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, Kashima, and Beijing.

With only one side from each group progressing to the last eight, the clash between Kashima and Beijing in Japan is crucial ahead of a return leg in China on 23 April.

Kashima are full of confidence after scoring an incredible 15 goals in their first two games, but their Brazilian coach Oswaldo Oliveira is taking nothing for granted.

"I think recovery from fatigue will be the main factor," he said after his side put four goals past JEF United Chiba in the J-League on Saturday. "I've told my players to recover as quickly as possible. The game against Beijing Guoan is very important to get past the group round."

Vietnam's Nam Dinh and Krung Thai Bank look destined to play for the group wooden spoon.

In Group G, Melbourne Victory desperately need to bounce back against Japan's Gamba Osaka after crashing to Thai Premier League champions Chonburi in Bangkok a fortnight ago. They currently trail by a point from Chonburi and Gamba.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick said it was imperative that his team win, but he knows it will be a tough task against a side that boasts seven Japanese internationals and several Brazilian imports. The Australian outfit are also hampered by injuries to key strikers Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez.

"We have to take three points from this match and then we've got them back-to-back over in Osaka so let's go to Osaka three points on top," Merrick said.

Chonburi continue their campaign against basement club Chunnam Dragons of Korea. Two-time champions Al Ittihad top their group on maximum points after a narrow win over the Syrian side of the same name, Al Ittihad, two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, the Saudi giants take on Iran's Sepahan. The Iranians' coach, Jorvan Vieria, who led Iraq to the AFC Asian Cup title last year, is convinced they can take their solid league form into the Champions League, which has so far not happened.

"We are at the bottom of the table but we still have four matches to play and we could still reach 12 points, so the tournament is not over for us," he insisted.

Former great Ali Daei, now coaching Iranian champions Saipa, believes only complacency will prevent his team reaching the quarter-finals after a win and a draw in their openers. They take on Iraq's Al Quwa Al Jawiya.

"From the first match I believed that we would finish top and I still think that, but the players must not get complacent," he said. "They have to keep playing like this because people have certain expectations of Saipa and now that we are one of Iran's representatives, we have to meet those expectations."

Adelaide United travel to Vietnam to face Binh Duong, looking for maximum points to give them the advantage in Group E, where they are tied on four points with China's Changchun Yatai, who entertain South Korea's Pohang Steelers.

In other games, UAE's Al Wasl Sports Club play Kuwait SC while Qatari outfit Al Saad are against Syria's Al Karama. Reigning champions Urawa Reds of Japan join the competition at the knockout stage.