Having stormed into knockout stage on their Asian debut, Japanese duo Kashiwa Reysol and FC Tokyo, plus Chinese frontrunners Guangzhou Evergrande are aiming to continue their impressive run going into the AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kashiwa travel to Ulsan Hyundai determined to end the Koreans' unbeaten campaign and join the already-qualified Al Ittihad, Al Hilal, Al Ahli and Sepahan in the last eight, while FC Tokyo square off with an ambitious Guangzhou under newly-appointed coach Marcello Lippi.
Elsewhere, Adelaide United entertain Nagoya Grampus in a much-anticipated encounter and Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor challenge Seongnam Ilhwa seeking to maintain their impressive form on the continental scene. Join FIFA.com as we preview in detail these match-ups.
Guangzhou Evergrande - FC Tokyo
One of the world's most accomplished coaches, Lippi will be thrown headlong into the rigours of continental competition as Guangzhou play hosts to FC Tokyo. Indeed, much is expected of the 2006 FIFA World Cup™-winning mentor, who got his Chinese spell off to a perfect start with a 1-0 home win over Qingdao Jonoon a week ago. To prepare for the continental showdown, Lippi opted to rest a series of key players in Friday's domestic fixture as they drew 1-1 with Shandong Luneng. Having been instrumental during the group campaign, their formidable foreign line-up are expected to continue their stellar performance with both top-scorer Dario Conca and Cleo fit to play, although a question mark remains over the form of Brazilian forward Muriqui following his recent return from injury.
Ranko Popovic's FC Tokyo, unlike the opponents, will count on their home-grown stars who between them bagged 10 of their 12 goals as they progressed at the expense of Brisbane Roar. Leading the attack is 2009 J.League Rookie of the Year Kazuma Watanabe, who netted a treble as they overcame a two-goal deficit to edge Sagan Tosu 3-2 on the domestic front, although their winning run was ended with Saturday's 1-1 draw against Urawa Red Diamonds. Already a force to be reckoned with on both the home and continental front, the newly-promoted capital side appear more than capable of springing another surprise having impressed on their Asian debut thus far.
The other attractions
The only Australian side to survive the group campaign, Adelaide are aspiring to continue carrying the A-League banner with a win against visiting Nagoya. And John Kosmina's side will be aiming to maintain their unbeaten home form, having racked up two wins and one draw as they won their group. Adding to their home advantage, Kosmina watched the Japanese club’s 3-0 win over compatriots Central Coast Mariners, before further enhancing his insight with a debrief from losing coach Graham Arnold.
Despite languishing 12th in the domestic competition, Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol are targeting success at Ulsan Hyundai having progressed to the last 16 in their first Asian foray. Taking heart from their two victories over Jeonbuk Motors, Nelsinho Baptista's side arrive in Korea Republic with a 2-0 defeat over Albirex Niigata. The Korean hosts, meanwhile, must put aside their 2-1 home defeat to Gangwon FC.
Having progressed at the expense of a pair of former winners in Gamba Osaka and Pohang Steelers, Bunyodkor challenge 2010 champions Seongnam Ilhwa brimming with confidence. Mirjalol Qosimov's visitors received a boost with a recent 1-0 defeat of Samarkand which saw them return to the top of the local standings. Bunyodkor will miss striker Anvarjon Soliev due to injury and captain Viktor Karpenko, who has been called into the Uzbekistan national team, while the hosts have to make do without suspended marksman Vladimir Jovancic.
Player to watch
Having finished J.League's top-scorer last season with 19 goals as Nagoya finished second, Josh Kennedy enters the match against Adelaide seeking to rediscover his old form as his side target a breakthrough after losing 2-0 to Suwon Bluewings at the same stage last year.
5 - Bunyodkor have set a new continental record by becoming the only team to progress beyond the group stage for a fifth consecutive time.
What they said
"Any of the Japanese teams are beatable, they’ve got to make the trip and these are all things that can help us get on with the job. And we’ve got to get our heads in the right space before we go out there and if we do that then I think we’ve got every chance of being successful," Adelaide United coach John Kosmina
AFC Champions League, Round of 16 fixtures
Al Jazira 3-3 Al Ahli (2-4 penalties)
Sepahan 2-0 Esteghlal
Al Ittihad 3-0 Persepolis
Al Hilal 7-1 Bani Yas
Adelaide United - Nagoya Grampus
Seongnam Ilhwa - Bunyodkor
Ulsan Hyundai - Kashiwa Reysol
Guangzhou Evergrande - FC Tokyo