In September, we told you about how the AFC Champions League was taking a new dimension.
With the region heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the competitors in Asia’s premier club football competition have now been split in two zones.
On the third of October, the Western zone produced its representative for the AFC Champions League final.
After playing out a 1-1 draw in regular time, the semi-final game between Al-Nassr and Persepolis dragged into penalties, which the Iranian side won. They will now wait for the team that will make it through the weaves and turns in the Eastern zone.
While it was earlier projected that action in the East won’t resume until November 15th, the games are now set to start earlier than scheduled.
While European countries are tightening cross-country travel restrictions, the travel restrictions in Asia are becoming less tight now. And that’s a green light for the games to be played.
While some of the teams in this region have played two games, some others – like Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou – have not even started their campaign. Teams in Groups E, F, G and H not only have their opponents to contend with as they try to get out of the group alive. They also have to deal with match fitness issues to be in the right shape for these games.
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Speaking of match fitness, the Japanese sides have an edge. Action has been going on non-stop in the J-League for a while now. It’s the same for the South Korean sides too. And this is what makes the game between FC Tokyo and Ulsan Hyundai one to watch out for.
It’s not the first time they’re playing. Two of their last three meetings have ended in a draw. In all, FC Tokyo have never defeated their South Korean opponent. Another Japan vs. South Korea encounter will take place when Yokohama F. Marinos take on Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (Hyundai must be really popular in South Korea).
Yokohama have won their two games so far while Jeonbuk have not won an AFC Champions League game this season.
Another team that has won all its games this season is Vissel Kobe. With two wins in two, and six goals scored, they face Johor Darul next, a side with a 50% win-rate.
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Of the teams that remain, Sydney FC have conceded the most goals, six goals in two games. In their game, they take on SIPG, a side that’s just about to start their Champions League campaign. Another Australian side that’ll be playing this week is Melbourne Victory. They take on Chiangrai, a side that they defeated when they first met earlier this year.
The race is on in Asia for the other semi-finalist of this year’s edition of the AFC Champions League. Which of these teams are you rooting for? Drop your comments and join the conversation.