Japanese sides crumple in the AFC Champions League

The AFC Champions League groups stages came to an end this week. As one East Asian side exit at the group stages in Kitchee if Hong Kong. The side might not be back for a while now as next season they will compete in the AFC Cup, Asia’s second continental cup competition. 

Meanwhile as expected the middle eastern sides along with the big East Asian sides will dominate the knock out stages. A tie to look out for though is Thai side Buriram United v Jeonbuk Motors. This will be a good indicator of how close the top Thai sides are to the rest of Asia’s elite.

Meanwhile, a Japanese side failed to reach the knockout stage in Cerezo Osaka. Their campaign ended rather weakly as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Guangzhou Evergrande. The side which had expected a lot more in this year's competition ended up finishing 3rd in Group G.

This result meant that Cerezo became the third Japanese club to exit the tournament in the group stage. While Kashiwa Reysol and Kawasaki Frontale from the J League have likewise not made it out of the group stages. Kawasaki Frontale will be disappointed as they qualified for the champions league as Japanese champions. 

Now Kashima Antlers, are Japan’s only hope of keeping the AFC Champions League in Japan. Although they didn’t end the group stages well either. The side finished second in the Group H after a 1-0 defeat to Suwon Bluewings. The side will now face Shanghai SIPG in the round of 16. 

This is only the second time Japan has failed to have at least two clubs at the knockout stage since 2009. The previous occasion was in 2013 when Kashiwa Reysol defeated Jeonbuk Motors in the Round of 16 and Al-Shabab in the quarter-finals before losing to champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the semi-finals. 

Despite Urawa Red’s of Japan being the current champions of Asia there is talk with the countries poor showing they could lose two of the four slots in the group stages. There is then a chance that the other two slots will then go into the playoffs to try and qualify.  

Meanwhile, it was much better news for the South Korean sides as Jeonbuk Motors, Suwon Bluewings and Ulsan Hyundai all progressed to the round of 16. It was a very disappointing end for Jeju United however as they went out the fishing bottom of Group G with only three points. 

A tie to look out for is Ulsan Hyundai against Suwon Bluewings a game that is sure to be entertaining. With the K League falling crowds it will be hoped that this game will be of concern to a large audience. 

The odds are on for a Chinese side to win the Champions League this year however why outside bet for this completion would have to the South Korean Champions Jeonbuk Motors who took the top spot in Group E with some very entertaining displays. The worry for them will be the questionable defending. 

Although this is something that was clearly worked on as the side have now gone six games without conceding a goal. If they can keep that run going into the last 16 when they face the Thai side Buriram United I can only see one winner. 

Here are the fixtures for all the round of 16 matches that a due to take place from Sunday - Tuesday (6th - 8th May) and then the 13th to the 15th May. 

Al Sadd v. Al Ahli      
Al Jazira v Persepolis    
Al Ain v Al Duhail
Zob Ahan v Esteghlal
Buriram United v Jeonbuk Motors
Tianjin Quanjian v Guangzhou Evergrande
Kashima Antlers v Shanghai SIPG
Ulsan Hyundai v Suwon Bluewings

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