Asia's elite on the precipice
Asia's elite club competition takes centre stage again on Wednesday with all four ties well poised and a place in the semi-finals awaiting the victors. Remaining are two teams each from Japan, Korea Republic and Uzbekistan, while there are sole representatives from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Qatar's Umm Salal travel to FC Seoul protecting a 3-2 lead, while it is similar scenario in Japan as Kawasaki Frontale take a 2-1 advantage into their match at Nagoya Grampus. Luiz Felipe Scolari's Bunyodkor will have a level of confidence with a 3-1 lead for their visit to Pohang Steelers, while compatriots Pakhtakor have less reason for optimism having drawn 1-1 at home to dual continental winners in Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al Ittihad. Join FIFA.com for an in-depth preview of some intriguing match-ups.
Nagoya Grampus - Kawasaki Frontale
The all-Japanese is contest is fascinatingly poised with Kawasaki Frontale holding a 2-1 lead when they visit Nagoya Grampus. Kawasaki will start slight favourites with recent history on their side due to an undefeated streak against their opponents stretching for nine matches. However Nagoya sandwiched their first-leg match with domestic wins at Omiya Ardija, and then a stirring 4-1 triumph over leaders Kashima Antlers last weekend.
Conversely Kawasaki have lost their last two league outings, albeit against domestic giants in Gamba Osaka and Urawa Red Diamonds. The winner will carry the burden of being the Japan's sole remaining representative and last hope for a nation aiming for a third consecutive continental club crown.
The other headliner
Pohang Steelers - Bunyodkor
Luiz Felipe Scolari's all-star Bunyodkor side take a two-goal advantage to Korea Republic's Pohang Steelers. The Uzbek powerhouse have dominated their domestic season and now their gaze is firmly fixed on continental glory after elimination in the semi-finals last year. Despite sitting third in the K-League after a hard-fought 2-1 away victory over Busan I'Park on the weekend, the Koreans will have to make do without the services of key defender Kim Hyung-Il after he was sent off in the opening leg.
Current K-League leaders FC Seoul, impressive conquerors of Kashima Antlers in the last round have a challenge ahead of them after Qatar's Umm Salal earned a 3-2 first-leg advantage. The Koreans will be comforted by their league form, most recently cruising to a 3-0 home victory over Daejeon. The home side also welcome back captain Kim Chi-Gon and midfielder Kim Han-Yoon from suspension. The pair's return will provide a timely boost given the form of former Brazil international Magno Alves who scored a brace for Umm Salal in the first leg.
Saudi giants Al Ittihad will start marginal favourites when they host Pakhtakor after earning a 1-1 draw in Uzbekistan. Saudi Arabia defender Osama Al Harbi and Oman midfielder Ahmed Hadid return from suspension and coach Gabriel Calderon has stated his team will play for the win despite the luxury of an away goal.
Player to watch
Giant Australian striker Josh Kennedy has added a fresh dimension to the Nagoya Grampus frontline having formed an impressive partnership with Keiji Tamada. Kennedy's aerial ability proved too much for the Kawasaki defence in the first leg with a first-half header adding to a tally of five league goals since the 1.94m striker joined the club from Karlsruhe in June.
What they said
"The match against Umm Salal is one of the most important occasions in the club's history," said FC Seoul coach Senol Gunes ahead of his team's second leg quarter-final.
2009 AFC Champions League quarter-final second leg fixtures:
FC Seoul (Korea Republic) - Umm Salal (Qatar) - (First leg 2-3)
Nagoya Grampus (Japan) - Kawasaki Frontale (Japan) - (1-2)
Pohang Steelers (Korea Republic) - Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan) (1-3)
Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia) - Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) (1-1)