Leaders set sights on early progression
© AFP

Several front-runners have early progression in their sights as the AFC Champions League reaches the Matchday 4. Victory at Jeonbuk Motors is enough to see Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande through with two games spare, provided Yokohama F. Marinos do not win. The same can be said of Ulsan Hyundai, who can advance with a win against visiting Guizhou Renhe if Western Sydney Wanderers sink Kawasaki Frontale.

Elsewhere, Group A's Al Jazira and Al Shabab can qualify if they both win. A series of strugglers, meanwhile, face elimination with Guizhou, Yokohama, Esteghlal and Buriram United facing must-wins. Join FIFA.com as we preview the showdowns across Asia in detail.

The match
Central Coast Mariners-Beijing Guoan

In a complicated Group F, where the top and bottoms sides are separated by just two points, leaders Beijing take on struggling Mariners hoping to consolidate their grip on the section. Gregorio Manzano's visitors will be wary of their recent record against Australian sides with only three wins in seven previous meetings, including a 2-1 home defeat a fortnight earlier. Phil Moss's hosts, however, will draw inspiration from their Round of 16 performances last year when they qualified from their group at the expense of Chinese Guizhou Renhe.

A 2-0 loss at Shanghai SIPG in the domestic league is not what Beijing wanted heading into the return match. Conversely, the A-League Grand Final winners received a timely morale-boost after defeating Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 on Saturday, a result that moves them to the second spot in the local table. Moss is expecting to have a full squad at his disposal but Manzano must make do without lively winger Zhang Chengdong through suspension. In Group F’s other encounter, FC Seoul entertain Sanfrecce Hiroshima seeking to avenge their 2-1 loss to the same opponents.

The other attractions
With an opportunity to advance with a win, Group A leaders Al Jazira will look to capitalise against an out-of-form Esteghlal, who recently suffered a 1-0 loss to Naft Tehran. Despite drawing with Al Nasr 1-1, Al Shabab travel to Al Rayyan harbouring hopes of progressing together with Al Jazira if both sides can conjure up a victory.

Group B's two-time semi-finalists Bunyodkor see their group campaign in real danger for the first time, with nothing less than three points at Foolad enough to rekindle their diminishing hopes. But the Uzbeks will be missing captain and centre-back Hayrulla Karimov through suspension. Novices Al Fateh are also in desperate search of their first win at El Jeish whose centre-back Anderson Martins is also suspended.

Al Ain may languish at the lower reaches of their domestic league but the inaugural winners have demonstrated contrasting form on the Asian stage and are expectant of extending their lead in Group C with a third win at Tractor Sazi. Al Ittihad, meanwhile, will aim to build on their recent 4-1 win over Al Shoala when they take on Lekhwiya. 

If their home forms are anything to go by, Group D bottom club Al Hilal look set to mount a serious challenge against leaders Al Sadd. The Riyadh giants fired six unanswered goals past Al Nahdah in their latest outing with Nassir Al Shamrani on target four times while the latter lost to Al Siliya 2-1 at home. Al Ahli, meanwhile, welcome Sepahan in good form having edged Al Sharjah by the same scoreline.

Group E's joint leaders Shandong Luneng and Pohang Steelers both enter their rematch fine-tuned but the latter claimed a 4-2 home win against Sangju Sangmu Phoenix, while the former dropped a tight 1-0 result to visiting Liaoning Whowin. Despite drawing Albirex Niigata 0-0, Cerezo Osaka will be hoping to move into the top two with another victory against winless Buriram United.

Group G's Guangzhou travel to Jeonbuk for their meeting number six, knowing a victory may take them through if Yokohama drop points against Melbourne Victory. The Chinese champions were stunned by Changchun Yatai 3-1 a week ago but they quickly re-justified their status with a deserving 2-0 win at Jiangsu Sainty and they are hoping for back-to-back wins against Jeonbuk, who beat Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 1-0 at the weekend.

Group H strugglers Guizhou Renhe must put their 1-0 home loss to Shanghai Shenxin behind them if they are to avoid early elimination against leaders Ulsan Hyundai. But the latter, boosted by their 2-1 home win against FC Seoul, are expecting to complete their qualifying mission with a win on Tuesday. In fact, the 2012 winners can progress alongside Western Sydney if they win and the Australians also beat Kawasaki Frontale.

Player to watch
With four goals from three matches, Al Ain’s Asamoah Gyan is the tournament’s top marksman. The Ghana captain hit a brace in his side's recent triumph at Emirates, suggesting that the free-scoring striker will continue his fine form against Tractor Sazi.

The stat
7 teams enter Matchday 4 still seeking their maiden victory in the continental competition.

What they said
"We are playing in two competitions and if you are not patient with the ball in Asia you get eaten alive. So it’s good to see what we can carry a bit of our Asian football into the A-League and vice-versa," Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss.

Matchday 4 fixtures
1 & 2 April

Group A: Al Jazira-Esteghlal, Al Rayyan-Al Shabab
Group B: El Jaish-Al Fateh, Foolad-Bunyodkor
Group C: Tractor Sazi- Al-Ain, Al Ittihad-Lekhwiya
Group D: Al Hilal-Al Sadd, Al-Ahli-Sepahan
Group E: Shandong Luneng-Pohang Steelers, Buriram United-Cerezo Osaka
Group F:  FC Seoul-Sanfrecce Hiroshima,Central Coast Mariners-Beijing Guoan
Group G: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors-Guangzhou Evergrande, Yokohama F. Marinos-Melbourne Victory
Group H: Guizhou Renhe-Ulsan Hyundai, Kawasaki Frontale-Western Sydney Wanderers