The ACL-groups are into their final round and there are still a few spots up for grabs in the in the eastern division playoffs, and all four group winners have yet to be definitively decided. Here’s the group-by-group breakdown of what is still to play for:
Jeonbuk Hyundai and Tianjin Quanjian have already secured their places in the round of 16 so it’s down to who comes out ahead out of the two. A draw for Jeonbuk at home to Kitchee, who brought home their second consecutive league title back in Hong Kong just the other day but are bottom of the group in the ACL, would mean Quanjian need to win by at least 7 at home to Kashiwa Reysol to have any chance of stealing the top spot. Hence, everything points to the Koreans remaining in front of the Chinese tomorrow evening.
Ulsan Hyundai and Melbourne Victory are, in theory, fighting to join Shanghai SIPG in the next round. However, Ulsan only need a single point away to Kawasaki Frontale to keep Victory at bay and, should they fail to do so, the Australians have 10 goals to make up for in relation to the Koreans. As SIPG travel to Melbourne tomorrow knowing a loss puts them under threat of falling behind Ulsan, the chances of an Aussie scoring-orgy are slim to none.
The only group where no side is yet sure of progressing, Guangzhou Evergrande are in front but if the they were to lose at home to Cerezo Osaka tonight, the visitors would claim the top sport and the Cantonese would be in a goal-difference affair with Buriram United for second place, assuming the Thai side defeats Jeju United away. If Jeju wins, Evergrande and Cerezo are through no matter what. However, Cerezo have travelled to China without several first team regulars and a draw is not enough for them to survive the group if Buriram comes out on top in Korea.
The only group where all sides still have the chance of progressing. Kashima Antlers are through and only need a draw at home to Suwon Bluewings to win the group. Suwon, on the other hand, need a win to be sure of avoiding elimination if there is a winner in tonight’s encounter in Australia between Sydney FC and Shanghai Shenhua. A loss would put the Koreans at risk of being surpassed by either of the challengers, and a draw would still keep Sydney’s hopes alive.
It looks like tonight may well be a nail-biter, while tomorrow evening is more about deciding the order of the first two, rather than who they’ll be.