Kuala Lumpur: With the 2017 AFC Champions League Group Stage done and dusted, the continental competition’s knockout phase is now upon us as the eight remaining teams from the East prepare for action on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Sides from China, Korea Republic, Japan and Thailand will face off in four hotly anticipated Round of 16 encounters with the dream of advancing to the quarter-finals in three months’ time.
Muangthong United v Kawasaki Frontale
Muangthong United will become the first Thai team to appear in the knockout stage since Buriram United in 2013 when they welcome Kawasaki Frontale on Tuesday.
Muangthong advanced to the last 16 for the first time after finishing runners-up in Group E following a string of excellent performances, while Kawasaki drew their first four games on the continent before back-to-back victories ensured they progressed on top of the Group G standings.
Muangthong United (THA) v Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
Venue: Thunderdome Stadium, Nonthaburi
Kick-off: May 23, 19:30 UTC+7
Guangzhou Evergrande v Kashima Antlers
Two-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande host Kashima Antlers on Tuesday with the Japanese visitors making their first appearance in the knockout stage since 2011.
Guangzhou remained unbeaten but laboured to runners-up spot in Group G after four draws in six games, while Kashima advanced from Group E with a game to spare and claimed top spot after a 2-1 Matchday Six victory over Muangthong United.
Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) v Kashima Antlers (JPN)
Venue: Tianhe Stadium, Guangzhou
Kick-off: May 23, 20:00 UTC+8
Jeju United v Urawa Red Diamonds
Another team making their debut in the last 16 is Jeju United, who host an Urawa Red Diamonds side that have not made it beyond the Round of 16 stage since 2008.
Jeju’s last game against Japanese opposition resulted in a 2-0 victory over Gamba Osaka two weeks ago that helped them finish second in Group H, but Urawa will provide a much tougher test on Wednesday after qualifying as Group F winners with a joint-tournament-leading 18 goals.
Jeju United (KOR) v Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)
Venue: Jeju Sports Complex, Jeju
Kick-off: May 24, 15:00 UTC+9
Shanghai SIPG v Jiangsu FC
An all-Chinese affair takes place on Wednesday as Shanghai SIPG face off against Jiangsu FC in one of the most mouthwatering ties of the first knockout round.
Hosts Shanghai won four from six in qualifying for their second successive Round of 16 as Group F runners-up but Jiangsu bettered that total by winning all but one of their group stage games to secure their first-ever place in the last 16 as winners of Group H.
Shanghai SIPG (CHN) v Jiangsu FC (CHN)
Venue: Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai
Kick-off: May 24, 20:00 UTC+8
Photos: Lagardère Sports