- Group rivals meet again in AFC Champions League semi-finals
- Al Sadd seeking to prolong unbeaten home record
- Winner of next month’s final to feature at FIFA Club World Cup
Re-matches take centre stage in Asia as the 2018 AFC Champions League semi-finals kick-off on Tuesday.
Qatari giants Al Sadd welcome Persepolis aiming to continue their strong home form which saw them garner four wins and a draw at home, including a victory over the same opponents in the closing group fixture.
Suwon Bluewings, meanwhile, travel to Japan hoping to repeat their previous victory at Kashima Antlers during the group stage.
Al Sadd will look to their Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah who is currently topping the tournament scoring-chart with 12 goals. While the thirteen-time Qatari champions can expect strong home support at Doha, they will be wary of their resilient Iranian opponents, who knocked out another Qatari side Al-Duhail to reach the last four.
Shouldering the goalscoring tasks for Suwon is, of course, the evergreen Dejan Damjanovic who netted the match-winning goal at Kashima in the last meeting. However, they can’t afford to underestimate the firepower of the Japanese hosts, who are one of the tournament’s best scorers with 17 goals.
Al Sadd-Persepolis (2 October)
Kashima Antlers-Suwon Bluewings (3 October)
Persepolis-Al Sadd (23 October)
Suwon Bluewings-Kashima Antlers (24 October)
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Despite having never won the AFC Champions League, eight-time Japanese champions Kashima can boast a FIFA Club World Cup appearance, having played at Japan 2016 representing the host country as J.League champions. And they defied all the odds to finish as runners-up behind Real Madrid, a result which remains the best achievement at the global showpiece for an Asian club.
Suwon enter this year’s campaign aiming to relive their past glory on the Asian scene, having twice lifted the Asian Club Championship trophy in the early 2000s. Since the inception of the AFC Champions League in 2003, however, they have never made it to the final with the semi-finals being their best performances in the competition thus far.
This year’s competition saw Persepolis reach the semi-final stage for the second consecutive time, another sign of the Tehran giants’ powerful return to their heady days in the 1990s when they dominated the domestic stage, while winning the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup 1991.
Al Sadd are the only side among the semi-final quartet to have won the competition under its current guise. The Qataris claimed a memorable penalty shoot-out win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Korea Republic seven years ago.