Asian hopefuls face do-or-die

Having disappointed in the opening AFC Champions League quarter-final first-leg ties a fortnight ago, the trio of Korea Republic representatives enter the return games needing emphatic wins if the nation’s presence on the continental stage is to be maintained this season.

Leading the charge will be K-League champions FC Seoul, who play host to Al Ittihad determined to reverse an opening 3-1 defeat, while compatriots Jeonbuk Motors welcome Cerezo Osaka facing a 4-3 first-leg deficit. Suwon Bluewings, meanwhile, face an uphill task at Zob Ahan with the Iranians not only enjoying home support but also a precious away goal following their 1-1 draw.

Elsewhere, Sepahan's progression hopes were severly dented as they were made to forfeit their first-leg 1-0 victory over Al Sadd for fielding an ineligible play, with the AFC Disciplinary Committee awarding the match to the Qatari side as a 3-0 win. Join as we preview these enticing showdowns across Asia. 

The game
FC Seoul-Al Ittihad
Al Ittihad travel to the Korean capital with mixed historical performances against K-League sides. In clinching their maiden continental title in 2004 the Saudi giants prevailed 6-3 over Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma on aggregate in the final, but two years ago at the same stage they fell 2-1 to Pohang Steelers. The two-time Asian champions may boast a two-goal cushion this time, but they will be wary of the prolific form of their opponents who recently crushed Daejeon Citizen 4-1.

With a two-goal deficit to overturn, the hosts are left with little option but to attack. Spearheading their offensive line is Montenegrin marksman Dejan Damjanovic, who netted a brace against Daejeon on the weekend. The visitors, for their part, can count on their experienced core headed by Mohammed Noor, who has been key on both occasions that the club were crowned Asian champions. The Ittihad playmaker was also on target in the first leg, opening the scoring to set up a resounding victory.

The other attractions
Cerezo Osaka received a major blow heading into the crucial encounter against Jeonbuk Motors with their star midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake ruled out due to injury. With three away goals, the Korean hosts can progress on away goals with a low-scoring one-goal win, although they must overcome their recent lacklustre form which saw them held to a goalless draw at Jeju United on the weekend. Conversely, their Japanese opponents can take heart from an overwhelming 6-0 dismantling of Montedio Yamagata on Friday.

A 1-1 draw at Shahin in their latest domestic outing is by no means the result Zob Ahan were seeking going into the home game against Suwon but, boasting an away goal, the Isfahan giants can still make it through with a goalless draw. The Korean visitors, for their part, claimed a 2-1 triumph at Daegu FC, with their international midfielder Yeom Ki-Hun on target. Knowing they must score goals to better the opponents' previous result, Suwon are likely to take the game to their Iranian hosts.

In addition to missing the services of playmaker Akbar Imani due to suspension, Sepahan face another challenge against hosts Al Sadd as they have a three-goal deficit to reverse. Likely needing a miracle to make it through, the 2007 runners-up will count on in-form striker Emad Mohammed to keep them afloat, as the goalscorer bagged a brace in their recent 3-0 win over Damash on the domestic scene. Al Sadd, on the other hand, will not only enjoy the boost of the forfeit win awarded in their favour, but come with plenty of confidence after a 3-1 defeat of Umm Salal in their latest league fixture with their Senegalese striker Mamadou Niang twice on target.

Player to watch 
With 14 goals already this season, Lee Dong Gook has made a name for himself as Jeonbuk's top scorer. If the striker can replicate his eye-catching form at league level against Cerezo Osaka, the K-League giants should have a strong chance at overturning their first-leg deficit.

The stat
7 -
Al Ittihad and Sepahan are arguably the most experienced clubs among the eight remaining participants, with each engaged in their seventh continental foray.

What they said
"Although we lost the first leg, we are strong at home. We will work on what needs to be fixed for the return leg, which I think will be a different game," Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-Hee

2011 AFC Champions League quarter-finals second leg fixtures
27 & 28 September
FC Seoul-Al Ittihad
Jeonbuk Motors-Cerezo Osaka
Al Sadd-Sepahan
Zob Ahan-Suwon Bluewings