AFC Champions League resumes with J.League teams aiming to clinch knockout stage spot

AFC Champions League resumes with J.League teams aiming to clinch knockout stage spot

The AFC Champions League is back for Matchweek 5 of the group stage and several of the Meiji Yasuda J.League clubs have a big opportunity to clinch their spots in the round of 16.

Kawasaki Frontale have been nothing short of exceptional in continental play thus far, taking four wins from four matches to sit atop Group I. They take on Johor Darul Ta’zim next, a club they already beat, 1-0, in Malaysia. If they can manage just a single point at Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium, they’ll clinch first place in their group and a spot in the knockout stages.

It’s not as clear cut for Yokohama F·Marinos and Ventforet Kofu, who are both atop their group as well.

Marinos are level with Shandong Taishan atop Group G, holding an edge on the tiebreaker, ahead of their visit to Incheon United this week. The Korean club got the best of the Tricolor in their earlier meeting so Marinos know this will be a tough match, but a win could put them in position to clinch a spot in the knockout stages, depending on what happens in matches elsewhere.

Regardless of whether they clinch or not, getting a result in South Korea would be massive and guarantee them a chance to seal first place in the group with a win over Shandong Taishan on the final day of Group G play.

Ventforet are also level on points atop their group, sitting alongside Melbourne City with seven points in Group H ahead of their massive clash this week. The J2 club already proved they can compete with City, having drawn them away earlier in the competition, and a win in this match would guarantee they finish ahead of the Australian outfit. It could even earn them first place in the group, if Buriram United lose in the other Group H contest.

While Frontale, Marinos and Ventforet have all had excellent AFC Champions League runs thus far, and all sit atop their groups, the same is not true for the reigning Asian champions, Urawa Reds. They find themselves on just four points in Group J, already mathematically eliminated from contention to win the group. However, they could still advance as a second place team, but it could take winning both of their final two matches, beginning this week when they host Wuhan Three Towns.

It’s a big week in Asia for the J.League’s quartet of AFC Champions League clubs, with three capable of advancing and the continental champions gearing up for a must-win clash.