Half of the last-16 slots are still up for grab as the AFC Champions League group campaign goes down to the wire on Tuesday and Wednesday. Former winners Gamba Osaka and Jeonbuk Motors face do-or-die encounters, while defending champions Western Sydney Wanderers must defeat hosts Guangzhou Evergrande and hope the other result also goes their way if they are to progress.
Group A's Lekhwiya and Persepolis can jointly progress should they win or draw but Naft Tehran and Nasaf are aware that only three points can secure their places in the knockout phase regardless of other results. Elsewhere, Beijing Guoan know a point at Suwon Bluewings is enough to book their qualification. FIFA.com takes a closer look at this week’s showdowns.
Jeonbuk Motors-Shandong Luneng
The scenarios of Group E are crystal-clear, with a point enough to see hosts Jeonbuk through but Shandong need a victory to book the remaining spot behind already-qualified Kashiwa Reysol. While this match is expected to be ferocious, it looks set to be entertaining as well considering that both sides are renowned for their attacking approach and goal-scoring flair.
The K-League champions proved dominant in the first encounter winning comfortably 4-1 at Shandong. Choi Kanghee's home side rediscovered their winning form with a 2-0 victory over Suwon Bluewings, having suffered losses to Chunnam Dragons and Kashiwa both home and away. Still, they underestimate Shandong at their own peril as Cuca's side are the best-scorers in the domestic league with 19 goals from eight outings, including firing three unanswered goals past Beijing recently.
Jeonbuk will look to the goal-scoring form of Edu, the team's leading marksman who opened the scoring to set his side on the road to victory in the previous meeting, while the evergreen Lee Donggook remains a potent weapon upfront. Shandong, meanwhile, can count on in-from striker Yang Xu while midfielder Liu Binbin is capable of breaching the hosts' rearguard through his pace.
The other attractions
Group A leaders Lekhwiya need just a draw at Al Nassr to advance but the desperate Saudi hosts won’t give up without a fight. The Riyadh giants enter the re-meeting on the back of a 5-1 win at Al Faysali, a result which maintains them at the summit of the local table. Persepolis can, too, take heart from their solitary-goal home victory against Peykan as they seek three points against eliminated Bunyodkor.
A 2-0 home win over Malavan provided Group B’s Naft Tehran with a timely boost going into the all-important re-meeting with already-qualified Al Ain. A victory at home will seal the tournament debutants' qualification and even a draw can see the Iranians through should Pakhtakor not win against Al Shabab. In Group D, Nasaf will look to captain and top-striker Artur Gevorkyan as they aim to progress with a win at qualified Al Ain. The Turkmenistan forward has been on target three times including completing a brace in the 2-1 victory at Tractor Sazi.
Group F's race for the remaining spot behind Seongnam FC may look tight with Gamba Osaka and Buriram United tied on seven points each. However, the J-League side can progress with a home win against Seongnam at the expense of the Thais considering their superior head-to-head record. Meanwhile, Group G leaders Beijing can book progression with even a narrow loss at Suwon, should Brisbane Roar fail to claim the sizeable win needed to bridge the goal difference gap.
Elsewhere, all three sides harbour hopes of sealing the remaining spot behind qualified Guangzhou Evergrande in Group H. Trailing FC Seoul and Kashima Antlers by a point, holders Wanderers must hope they win at Guangzhou and the other game ends in a stalemate. Tony Popovic's side travels to China hoping to emulate their heroics last year when they eliminated the same side over two legs to storm into the last four. However, a 2-1 loss at Perth Glory in their most recent domestic outing revealed the holders are far from top form. Boosted by their 3-0 drubbing of Shanghai Shenhua, Guangzhou, for their part, are unlikely to let slip the chance of avenging their previous aggregate defeat.
Player to watch
21-year-old Liu Binbin has stood out in a star-studded Shandong side following a streak of eye-catching performances. The left winger dazzled viewers in the recent 3-0 home win against Beijing providing the assist for the opener, before being on target as his side fought out a 2-2 draw at Chongqing Lifan. The youngster is a crucial weapon if Shandong are to pull off a stunner at Jeonbuk.
8 - Eight eliminated teams, notably 2007 winners Urawa Red, plus two-time semi-finalists Bunyodkor and Al Shabab, enter the group concluder with little to play for but pride.
What they said
"We still have a chance to qualify from the group as we have an important match against Bunyodkor. We should study our mistakes in the previous matches and fix them before the final match," Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic
Matchday 6 fixtures
May 5 & 6
Group A: Persepolis-Bunyodkor, Al Nassr-Lekhwiya
Group B: Al Ain-Naft Tehran, Pakhtakor-Al Shabab
Group C: Al Hilal-Al Sadd, Foolad-Lokomotiv Tashkent
Group D: Nasaf-Al Ahli, Al Ahli-Tractor Sazi
Group E: Jeonbuk Motors-Shandong Luneng, Binh Duong-Kashiwa Reysol
Group F: Buriram United-Guangzhou R&F, Gamba Osaka-Seongnam FC
Group G: Suwon Bluewings-Beijing Guoan, Brisbane Roar-Urawa Red Diamonds
Group H: Guangzhou Evergrande-Western Sydney Wanderers, Kashima Antlers-FC Seoul