Ulsan v Kawasaki headlines rivalry in Asian Champions League

Updated 9/13/2021 6:26 PM

SEOUL, South Korea -- Japan and South Korea may have wobbled in World Cup qualification earlier this month but their clubs are dominant in Asian competition. Between them, the two two countries have won 10 of the last 15 Asian Champions League titles and also provide seven teams in the Round of 16 of the 2021 tournament.

The eastern zone of the competition starts the knockout stage Tuesday with a clash between two of the title favorites: defending champion Ulsan Horang-i and Japanese champion Kawasaki Frontale.


'I came to Ulsan because I want to win titles,' Ulsan midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili told the Asian Football Confederation's website.

'I've heard a lot about Kawasaki and I know they're a very good team who play good football,' Qazaishvili said. 'It's a huge advantage for us to have this match at home in Korea with our fans behind us; to play at home is always special.'

Both teams are top of their domestic leagues. When the Asian Champions League group stage finished in May, Kawasaki was way out in front at the top of the J.league but one win from the last five games has left the club just one point clear and out of the Levain Cup.

'We really wanted to win in the cup game and progress to the next stage so it is a painful feeling,' coach Toru Oniki said. 'We have no time to think about that as we have to look forward to a tough game in Asia against the champion Ulsan and that gives us a chance to put the cup exit behind us.'

The other two meetings between clubs from Japan and South Korea feature Nagoya Grampus hosting Daegu FC and Pohang Steelers, three-time Asian champion, traveling to Cerezo Osaka. Korea's Jeonbuk will host BG Pathum United of Thailand.

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In the western zone, Tractor of Iran asked the Asian Football Confederation for its game with Al-Nassr of Riyadh to be postponed. The team is struggling to put together the required 18-man roster as it has been hit by injuries and an outbreak of COVID-19.

CEO of the club Jamshid Nazmi said Tractor will do all it can to participate in the game, which will be held in Qatar.

'I examined the problems and looked at solutions necessary for the team to be present in Qatar,' Nazmi said in a statement on the club's homepage. 'Although it is necessary for Tractor to replace the new members of the youth team even if the AFC does not agree with our request, we will go to Qatar under any circumstances to play in the match.'

Sharjah hosts Al-Wahda in an all United Arab Emirates encounter. Tajikistan's first representative in the tournament, Istiklol, meets Iranian giant Persepolis.

Al Hilal became the first team to advance to the last eight with a 2-0 win over Esteghlal late Monday, with goals from Bafetimbi Gomis and Salem Al Dawsari.


The quarterfinals are set for next month and the final is scheduled for Nov. 23.


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