The AFC Champions League kicks off the back half of the group stage this week with Matchday 4 and the quartet of Meiji Yasuda J.League teams competing for the continental crown have big matches as they look to close in on places in the knockout stages.
Kawasaki Frontale will look to continue their perfect Champions League campaign when they take on BG Pathum United. The Thai side features the former Frontale man Chanathip Songkrasin, but Toru Oniki’s man did a good job keeping him in check in a 4-2 win last time the two teams played.
With Frontale on nine points and top of Group I, they are in terrific shape to advance and three points from BG Pathum could put them on the verge of clinching first place in the group.
A team that knows about excelling in this competition is Urawa Reds, who are the reigning Asian champions. They took a difficult loss last matchday, but are still second place in Group J with plenty to play for. Next up is a trip to first place Pohang Steelers and they’ll be looking to José Kanté to continue his strong play in the tournament as they aim for three points in South Korea.
Also sitting second in their group is Ventforet Kofu, the J2 team that took the tournament by storm with two great results to begin the group stage. Unfortunately, they lost to Zhejiang last time out, but they’ll get a chance for revenge this week when the Chinese side comes to Japan. A win would be huge for Ventforet and potentially even move them top of Group H.
Finally, Yokohama F·Marinos go in search of crucial points as they try to get out of a wild Group G. The Tricolor are on six points, which has them level with two other sides in the battle to make it to the knockout stages. They play last place Kaya FC this week and need to secure three points against the Filipino club to set them up for the final two matchdays against the two sides they are currently tied with.
When it comes to tournament play, every point is so massive and each matchday brings huge stakes. That’s exactly how it’s going in the AFC Champions League and Matchday 4 is gigantic, but the four Japanese teams have shown they can get it done in Asia and they will have the support of the whole country as they go for a crucial three points.