A total of 28 teams will lock horns on Matchday 3 of the AFC Champions League 2008, and while some will be out to strengthen their grip at the top of their pool, others are seeking their first win at the third time of asking. Adding to the intrigue is two all-east-Asian fixtures, with a pair of Chinese sides facing opponents from Korea Republic and Japan.
Super League holders Changchun Yatai, who only trail Group E leaders Adelaide United on goal difference, host reigning K-League champions Pohang Steelers. Victory would provide either side with a clear mental edge ahead of their second meeting in a fortnight.
For Yatai coach Gao Hongbo, winning the crunch tie in front of their own supporters means more than just clinching three points: " ," he told FIFA.com.
Adelaide United, meanwhile, will look to consolidate pole position against the pointless Binh Duong. The Australians came away with a 2-0 win over Dong Tam Long An on their Asian debut last year, and coach Aurelio Vidmar believes his side will have few problems repeating the feat against Vietnamese opposition. "We will have a good chance as long as we play our football," he said.
For their part, Beijing Guoan face the uphill task of travelling to Japan to play free-scoring Kashima Antlers, who have chalked up an incredible 15 goals from two previous outings in the competition. Both sides made light work of Krung Thai Bank and Nam Dinh, so the clash for Group F ascendancy promises to be a tasty one. " ," admitted Kashima's Brazilian coach Oswaldo de Oliveira.
Despite the J-League holders' impressive form, Guoan's Korean coach Lee Sang-Soo believes his side can maintain their own 100 per cent record on Wednesday. "They look a strong team but we have our approach of winning games," he said.
Melbourne Victory opened up with a convincing reverse of Chunnam Dragons, but they were upset 3-1 by Thai outfit Chonburi last time out. Victory coach Ernie Merrick believes an attacking approach will help his side get back on track against Gamba Osaka. "We have to play a high intensity game and keep at them," he opined. "If we score one goal, then we want to score another."
In Group G's other match, the empty-handed Chunnam Dragons face a must-win game at home to Chonburi, who surprisingly head the section, above Osaka on goal difference.
Sepahan, who represented Asia at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 but have lost their opening two matches as they bid to return to the Champions League final, will host Saudi giants Al Ittihad, whose Syrian namesakes entertain Kuruvchi in Aleppo. There, both sides will be looking to move on to six points from a possible nine.
Elsewhere, Group B pacesetters Saipa take on Iraqi team Al Quwa Al Jawiya, who also have four points, and Al Wasl will strive to put their first points on the board against Kuwait FC.
Group C leaders Al Sadd are out to continue their assault on glory by defeating Al Karama, while a home victory over Al Gharafa would keep Al Qadsia in the Group D driving seat.
AFC Champions League 2008, Matchday 3 fixtures:
Wednesday 9 April
Group A: Al Ittihad (Syria) - Kuruvchi (Uzbekistan); Sepahan (Iran) - Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia)
Group B: Al Quwa Al Jawiya (Iraq) - Saipa (Iran); Al Wasl (UAE) - Kuwait SC (Kuwait)
Group C: Al Ahly (Saudi Arabia) - Al Wahda (UAE); Al Sadd (Qatar) - Al Karama (Syria)
Group D: Al Qadsia (Kuwait) - Al Gharafa (Qatar); Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) - Arbil (Iraq)
Group F: Kashima Antlers (Japan) - Beijing Guoan (China); Krung Thai Bank (Thailand) - Nam Dinh (Vietnam)