Buriram United and Johor Darul Ta’zim, South-East Asia’s two representatives in the AFC Champions League, are set to take on Korean heavyweights Jeonbuk Hyundai and Gyeongnam FC respectively in the second round of the AFC Champions League.
After succumbing to a 3-0 loss against the Urawa Reds in Saitama last week, Buriram United need a win at home if they wish to reach the knockout stages for a second year running. The Thunder Castle face Jeonbuk Hyundai, the Korean champions who eliminated from the competition at the last 16 stage last season.
Despite ultimately losing on aggregate to the K-league giants, Buriram managed an impressive 3-2 victory against Jeonbuk in the home leg of their knockout tie. Bozidar Bandovic’s men have been trailblazers on the continent as far as Thai sides are concerned, but face an uphill task to replicate their successes this season.
On the other hand, Johor Darul Ta’zim are venturing into unchartered territory with their first ever AFC Champions League group stage appearance. The Southern Tigers were able to make a good impression of themselves against defending champions Kashima Antlers last week, with former Buriram man Diogo Luis Santo netting a historic goal for the club in a 2-1 defeat.
Now, the Malaysian champions are set to host their first ever game in the Champions League proper, marking another milestone for the club. Opponents Gyeongnam FC finished second in the K-League last season, and have established themselves as one of the nation’s strongest sides in recent campaigns.
Both of South-East Asia’s flagbearers have a monumental task ahead of them, and this week could be pivotal in defining the course fo their respective campaigns.