- Five nations are represented in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals
- The west zone sees two Iranian teams pitted against Qatari rivals
- Tianjin aim to spring another surprise as the only remaining tournament debutants
The 2018 AFC Champions League knockout stage competition resumes after a three-month hiatus on Monday with eight contenders battling against each other over two legs for a place in the last four. With the champions to also represent Asia at this year’s FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, there is a rich reward awaiting the eventual victor.
In the west, it is all about the competition between Iran and Qatar with Tehran giants Esteghlal and Persepolis matching up against Al Sadd and Al Duhail respectively. In the far east, two-time winners Jeonbuk Motors entertain Suwon Bluewings in an all-Korean affair, while J.League heavyweights Kashima Antlers welcome Chinese debutants Tianjin Quanjian.
Quarter-finals first leg ties:
Esteghlal – Al Sadd (27 August)
Al Duhail – Persepolis (28 August)
Kashima Antlers – Tianjin Quanjian (28 August)
Jeonbuk Motors – Suwon Bluewings (29 August)
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Jeonbuk enter the quarter-finals with high hopes of becoming the first team to win the crown for a record third time since the tournament’s reincarnation as the Champions League in 2003.
Qatari giants Al Sadd can take heart from their past record against Iranian teams when they face hosts Esteghlal on Monday. Notably, they overcame Sepahan 4-2 on aggregate at the same stage during the 2011 edition, before going all the way to the final where they undid Jeonbuk for their maiden Champions League title.
Tianjin will aim to continue their fairy-tale run as the tournament’s only debutants. Currently languishing fifth from the bottom in the Chinese Super League, the team travels to Japan seeking to atone for their domestic disappointment with another victory on the Asian scene.
Two clubs with vastly different histories do battle as Persepolis take on Al Duhail. Record Iran national champions Persepolis, the heavily-supported Tehran club, will be looking to end their nation’s title-winning drought during the Champions League era. Meanwhile, the Qatar side in contrast, were founded only in 2009 when they were known as Lekhwiya.