Last 16 beckons in Asia
© AFP

After ten teams qualified from the penultimate round fixtures to join Al Ittihad in the last 16, the final round of fixtures also promises to be intriguing with 11 teams battling it out for the remaining five slots.

West Asian trio Al Hilal, Al Nasr and Al Shabab are all well-positioned to progress, as are the two Osaka clubs: Cerezo and Gamba.

Join FIFA.com as we preview the closing round with so much at stake.

The big match
Al Hilal-Al Gharafa
Al Hilal's chance to clinch Group A's remaining spot is obvious. Indeed, they can afford to lose by a solitary goal against Al Gharafa and still progress. Adding to that, the Saudi giants enter the game with a distinct mental advantage, having prevailed 5-4 on aggregate in the two sides' quarter-final clash last year, before emerging 1-0 winners in the campaign’s previous match. Boosted by their successful title-defence in the Saudi league a week ago, coach Gabriel Calderon's side are hoping to transform their domestic form onto the continental stage.

However, nothing can be taken for granted given Al Gharafa's recent rampaging form. Under newly-appointed coach Bruno Metsu, the Qatari champions overcame their slow start to claw themselves back into the contest with two straight victories, including last week's 5-2 demolition of Al Jazira. The recent triumphs saw their hopes largely boosted, thanks in no small measure to the return to form of Younis Mahmoud. The Iraqi forward netted a hat-trick against Jazira and was on target again in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat of Al Sadd in the Qatar Emir’s Cup quarter-final.


Other attractions
Like Hilal, Group B's Al Nasr come into the game with Esteghlal a similar edge. Leading their opponents by three points thanks to a previous 2-1 home win in March, the Saudi outfit could also progress with a single goal defeat, but would have to score in that instance in order to progress.

Also expecting to advance comfortably are Group D's Al Shabab, who need a point against the already-qualified Zob Ahan to claim the section's second spot. Emirates, who trial by two points, may sneak in if they defeat Al Rayyan and Shabab lose.

The situation facing Emirates in similar to Group E’s bottom side Melbourne Victory, who can still make the last 16 providing they prevail at Jeju United while Gamba lose to Tianjin Teda at home. Jeju, meanwhile, can reach the next stage with three points if Gamba fail to win. However, Gamba’s destiny lies squarely in their own hands - a win is enough to take them through, regardless of the other outcomes.

Cerezo lead Shandong Luneng by two points going into their decisive meeting, but it is the Chinese visitors who came out 2-0 winners the last time the two teams met. After going through a recent managerial change which saw Branko Ivankovic make way for his assistant Rajko Magic, the Chinese champions registered a spirited 1-0 home victory over Jiangsu Sainty on Sunday while the Japanese are still looking for their first domestic victory after only managing a 1-1 draw with Vegalta Sendai at home over the weekend.

Player to watch
Shandong earned a much-needed morale-booster against Shuntian courtesy of their playmaker Deng Zhuoxiang, who broke his Super League duck with a spectacular free-kick. Facing a must-win against Cerezo, the Chinese international’s ability with set-pieces will be a key option for Shandong to turn the corner against their opponents.

What they said
"This game is going to be a good test. We can't have a draw while Jeju have to win as well so it's going to be a big match and I'm pretty confident we can get a win over there," Grant Brebner, Melbourne midfielder.

Matchday 5 fixtures

Tuesday & Wednesday
Group A: Al Jazira-Sepahan, Al Hilal-Al Gharafa
Group B: Pakhtakor-Al Sadd, Esteghlal-Al Nasr
Group C: Al Ittihad-Bunyodkor, Al Wahda- Persepolis
Group D: Zob Ahan-Al Shabab, Al Rayyan-Emirates
Group E: Gamba Osaka- Tianjin Teda, Jeju United- Melbourne Victory,
Group F: Al Ain-Nagoya Grampus, Hangzhou Greentown-FC Seoul
Group G: Jeonbuk Motors-Arema Indonesia, Cerezo Osaka-Shandong Luneng
Group H: Kashima Antlers-Sydney FC, Shanghai Shenhua-Suwon Bluewings