Doha, 9 December 2020 - The road to 2020 AFC Champions League glory is a little clearer for the four remaining East zone contenders, who discovered their quarter-final opponents in the knockout stage draw at Education City Stadium yesterday.
Ulsan Hyundai FC were drawn to play Beijing FC in the first of tomorrow’s quarter-finals, while Vissel Kobe will meet Suwon Samsung Bluewings, with both matches to be held at the state-of-the-art Al Janoub Stadium in Doha. The quarter-final winners will then do battle in Sunday’s AFC Champions League (East) semi-final, also at Al Janoub Stadium, with the successful club to advance to the final against Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis FC, who confirmed their place in the west zone in October.
China’s Beijing FC, having set a club record of a seven-match unbeaten run by beating FC Tokyo to end a sequence of Round of 16 defeats in 2010, 2013, and 2015, will now target a semi-final berth after sealing a spot in the quarter-finals for the first time.
Head coach Bruno Genesio believes the team need to look inwards ahead of their quarter-final clash with 2012 champions Ulsan Hyundai. “I think at this level of the competition, we had no particular preference as to which team we wanted to face,” said Genesio. “All teams that have progressed from the group stage are really good teams. So, all matches will be 50-50, we just need to prepare, focus on our own team and play our game.”
South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai have also been in impressive form in the AFC Champions League as they have a six-match winning streak since touching down in Doha, advancing to the quarter-finals for the first since winning the title in 2012.
But head coach Kim Do-hoon finds himself facing another in-form team in Beijing FC. “Beijing FC are a good team and we need to prepare well to face them and do our best in the quarter-finals,” said Kim.
Japan’s Vissel Kobe will also be in uncharted territory as they marked their debut AFC Champions League campaign by beating China PR’s Shanghai SIPG to advance to the quarter-finals. One aspect that will feel familiar to head coach Atsuhiro Miura is their quarter-final opponents.
“Any team we get would have been a tough opponent at this stage, but we already played Suwon two times in the competition,” said Miura. “I still think it will be a difficult match and we need to give our best. It is fair that both teams have had the same amount of rest, so we can both show a good game hopefully.”
The view is shared by head coach Park Kun-ha of Suwon Samsung Bluewings, who reached the quarter-finals after fighting back from going a goal behind to defeat Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos 3-2 on Monday as they set their eyes on reaching the last four stage, having last done so in 2018.
The Korean club have twice been crowned kings of Asia, having won back-to-back Asian Club Championships in 2000-01 and 2001-02. “We have already played against them in the group stage so we both know each other’s style and qualities,” said Park.
Unlike previous editions of the competition, the 2020 AFC Champions League quarter-finals will be played as a single match because of the cramped schedule.
The remaining matches will also feature the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system, having also been used at the same stage in the West Zone.