The K-League duo of Jeonbuk Motors and Suwon Bluewings enter Wednesday's AFC Champions League semi-final second legs in mixed moods as they seek to set-up an all-Korean final. The former can count on not only a 3-2 away win, but also home support as they entertain Al Ittihad, while the latter face an uphill task against hosts Al Sadd with a 2-0 deficit to overturn. Please join FIFA.com as we preview the all-important showdowns.
Jeonbuk Motors-Al Ittihad
If their stunning win in the 2004 final is anything to go by, it seems that Al Ittihad are set to rise to the occasion to upset their Korean hosts once again. Seven years ago the Jeddah giants edged past Jeonbuk at the same stage to progress into the tournament final, where they suffered a 3-1 first-leg defeat at home against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. With the Saudis seemingly down and out, they somehow managed to score five unanswered goals in the return to win the crown 6-3 on aggregate.
Taking heart from a glorious past against K-League opposition, Ittihad travel to Jeonbuk vowing to emulate their previous feats, with long-standing captain Mohammed Noor eyeing an historic away triumph. "They embarrassed us on our land," he said, "So we will do our best to defeat them at their home." It is the hosts, however, that enter the re-match with an added morale-boost, having recently won the K-League's regular season with a round to spare. Additionally, coach Choi Kang-Hee's side boast an unblemished home record in this campaign. "The pressure shall be greater on the Saudi visitors," said Choi, "This will allow us to have the game in our favour."
The other attraction
Al Sadd-Suwon Bluewings
Al Sadd's campaign has been filled with drama and headlines in equal measure. Having been awarded a 3-0 win in the quarter-final first leg after Sepahan fielded an ineligible player, Sadd progressed 4-2 on aggregate. Last week the Qataris then stunned hosts Suwon with a controversial 2-0 triumph. The away advantage may leave Jorge Fossati's home side well-placed to move into the final but they have difficulties of their own, with a series of star players missing for the decider. While the striking duo of Kader Keita and Mamadou Niang are suspended, their experienced player-maker Mesaad Al Hamad is also ruled out for a broken nose.
Despite the opening defeat, coach Yoo Sung-Hyo's Suwon are hopeful of bouncing back to form after their unexpected home defeat. With striking ace Stevica Ristic unavailable due to suspension, the goal-scoring task falls on the shoulders of Ha Tae-Gyun, the tournament's second top-scorer with six goals so far. Yoo rested his key players in Sunday's K-League penultimate round but his side still came away with a 1-0 win in Gwangju FC, with the result providing the team with a timely boost heading into the return in Qatar.
Player to watch
A revelation in Asia's qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Naif Hazazi showcased his talents in the previous match as he struck a brace to give Ittihad a 2-1 lead, only to see Jeonbuk battle from behind to win. With so much at stake in the return, the goal-scoring form of the 22-year-old Saudi is key to Ittihad's hopes.
17 - The number of goals that Jeonbuk have produced in their five home wins so far, while they have conceded just one.
What they said
"I have not won the AFC Champions League and I really want to win the continental title. We have been doing very well so far this season but I want to end up with the best result," Jeonbuk striker Lee Dong-Gook
2011 AFC Champions League semi-finals
Al Sadd-Suwon Bluewings
Jeonbuk Motors- Al Ittihad