Heavyweights seek to restore pride
Former winners Al Ittihad and Pohang Steelers will be aiming to continue their winning start when the AFC Champions League resumes with matchday 2 on Tuesday after a fortnight's hiatus. However, in Bunyodkor and Al Arabi, they face teams desperate to bounce back after losing their openers.
Pre-tournament favourites Jeonbuk Motors, Gamba Osaka and Seongnam Ilhwa, meanwhile, enter their respective games still seeking the opening victory, while the likes of FC Tokyo, Bani Yas and Buriram United will have to go under the scrutiny of Ulsan Hyundai, Pakhtakor and Guangzhou Evergrande despite their opening triumphs. Join FIFA.com as we detail the enticing match-ups across the continent.
Adelaide United-Gamba Osaka
Group E’s Adelaide welcome Gamba knowing they have a score to settle with the Japanese giants, having conceded five unanswered goals in the 2008 AFC Champions League final. They went on to lose the re-match at that year's FIFA Club World Cup, with the J.League powerhouse claiming a solitary-goal win. Despite boasting a historic edge, Gamba enter the third meeting looking to shrug off their miserable form which has seen them fall 3-0 to Pohang Steelers in the opener before being edged out 2-1 to city rivals Cerezo Osaka in their most recent domestic fixture. Adelaide, meanwhile, will be boosted by their surprise 2-1 opening win at Bunyodkor.
Despite losing to Central Coast Mariners 1-0 on Saturday to remain second from bottom, Adelaide coach John Kosmina is likely to maintain Bruce Djite as the lone striker in preference to the team's top-scorer Sergio van Dijk as they seek revenge against the Japanese. His opposite number Jose Carlos Serrao, though, can count on classy playmaker Yasuhito Endo who scored the only goal in their previous meeting. In the section's other game, Pohang entertain Bunyodkor hoping to reprise their famous 5-4 win against the Uzbek giants in the 2009 quarter-finals.
The other attractions
Tournament debutants Nasaf Qarsi from Group A travel to Iran desperately seeking their opening win against Esteghlal. Buoyed by their recent 2-1 victory at Samarkand Dinamo in this season's Uzbek league opener, the central Asians are hoping to relive their previous continental form which saw them win last year's AFC Cup. The other match pits section leaders Al Jazira against Al Rayyan, with the former heading into the encounter with a 1-0 home win over Diego Maradona's Al Wasl in the United Arab Emirates league.
Group B sees first-timers Bani Yas and Al Arabi cross swords with Pakhtakor and Al Ittihad, both of whom are among the tournament's most seasoned campaigners. Having prevailed 2-0 over Al Arabi in the opener, Bani Yas arrive in Tashkent on the back of a win by the same scoreline against Emirates, while the hosts can take heart from a 1-0 victory at Bukhara. Al Arabi, however, face a massive challenge against visiting Al Ittihad, who dispatched Al Faysali 1-0 in the recent Saudi league fixture with promising forward Naif Hazazi netting the winner.
Group C leaders Sepahan travel to Al Ahli looking to on-song striker Bruno Correa, who completed a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Rah Ahan 3-2 on Saturday. In the section’s other match, Al Nasr play host to in-form Qatari champions Lekhwiya, who saw off Umm Salal 3-1 in the recent local fixture.
In Group D, Iranian giants Persepolis are expected to make light work of Al Shabab having thrashed Naft Tehran 3-0. But there is a titanic clash elsewhere in the section, with Qatari giants Al Gharafa entertaining Saudi powerhouses Al Hilal. 5-4 aggregate winners in the two sides' previous meeting in the 2010 edition's quarter-finals, Al Hilal enter this encounter boosted by a 6-1 drubbing of Al Ansar. Al Gharafa, for their part, cruised to a 4-1 victory at Al Ahli on the local scene.
Group F's two losing sides from the opening matchday, Beijing Guoan and Brisbane Roar, meet with the game providing both teams with an opportunity to put their campaign back on track. Hosts Beijing head into the game with a spirited 3-2 win over Shanghai Shenhua, while Roar edged out Newcastle Jets 2-1 to maintain their hopes of topping the A-League for the second season in a row. In another pairing, both hosts FC Tokyo and Ulsan Hyundai are seeking to continue their impressive early-season form having maintained an unblemished record on both the continental and domestic front.
In Group G, all four teams are aiming to move to the section summit with a win but it is the 2010 champions Seongnam Ilhwa that are desperately seeking to forget their 3-0 loss to Ulsan Hyundai when Tianjin Teda visit. A-League leaders Central Coast Mariners, meanwhile, are looking to translate their domestic form onto the Asian stage against Nagoya Grampus, who lost out 3-2 at Tokyo FC recently.
Elsewhere, both hosts Kashiwa Reysol and Jeonbuk Motors from Group H enter their meeting on the back of lacklustre league form, with the J.League champions losing 1-0 at Urawa Red Diamonds and the K-League holders sharing the spoils with Chunnam Dragons in a 1-1 stalemate. In what turns out to be a debutants derby, Thai champions Buriram United travel to Guangzhou Evergrande who were stunned 2-0 at the hands of newly-promoted Guangzhou R&F on the weekend.
Having figured prominently as Gamba conquered Asia four years ago, Yasuhito Endo’s creativity and set-piece talents could prove key as his side seek to overcome Adelaide.
3 - For Group H favourites Jeonbuk all three group opponents represent new opponents at continental level with 2012 being their Champions League debut.
What they said
"We are home and we've got to get the three points. We've got an early Christmas present against Bunyodkor and we have to make the most of that," Adelaide United coach John Kosmina
AFC Champions League Matchday 2 fixtures:
Group A: Esteghlal-Nasaf, Al Jazira-Al Rayyan
Group B: Pakhtakor-Bani Yas, Al Arabi-Al Ittihad
Group C: Al Nasr-Lekhwiya, Al Ahli-Sepahan
Group D: Persepolis-Al Shabab, Al Gharafa-Al Hilal
Group E: Adelaide United-Gamba Osaka, Pohang Steelers-Bunyodkor
Group F: FC Tokyo-Ulsan Hyundai, Beijing Guoan-Brisbane Roar
Group G: Seongnam Ilhwa-Tianjin Teda, Central Coast Mariners-Nagoya Grampus