Quarter-finals up for grabs in ACL

Japan's Kashima Antlers and Syria's Al Karama close in on the last eight.

    Kashima Antlers are the only undefeated team left
    in the tournament [GALLO/GETTY]
    Japanese champions Kashima Antlers and 2006 runners-up Al-Karama of Syria have a chance to book their Asian Champions League quarterfinals berths with wins on the fourth match day of the tournament.

    Kashima enjoys the only perfect record out of the 28 participants and a win in China against Beijing Guoan will guarantee top spot if Group F if Krung Thai Bank fails to defeat Nam Dinh of Vietnam.

    The margin for error is tight as only the winners of the seven groups progress to the quarterfinals and join by defending champions Urawa Reds of Japan in the knockout stage.

    There is hope for Beijing, which lost 1-0 in Japan two weeks ago. After 15 successive league wins, Kashima has collected just one point from its last two games in Japan.

    "I'm not worried at all about the lack of goals. We've been creating a lot of chances, be it in open play or on set pieces. The goals will come,'' Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliviera said.

    Adelaide look to rack up the goals

    Adelaide United is the best placed Australian team, and the Group E leaders will be confident ahead of their home game against last-placed Binh Duong of Vietnam.

    "If we can get three goals it will help our goal difference and it could come down to goal difference in the group,'' said Adelaide striker Nathan Burns.

    Burns will be hoping that South Korean champions Pohang Steelers help out with a win against second-placed Changchun Yatai of China.

    An inconsistent Pohang won only its second game of the K-League season last weekend, but the two-time Asian champions feel they have turned a corner.

    "We are starting to play better,'' said Pohang's Brazilian coach Sergio Farais.

    "We are becoming settled and I am sure that out performances will continue to improve, as will our results.''

    Gamba Osaka to host Melbourne

    Two dramatic 4-3 victories have put Japan's Gamba Osaka in control of Group G, and another win at home to Melbourne Victory will put the Kansai team within touching distance of a quarterfinals spot.

    Osaka will be without its two main goalkeepers through injury and the Australians are confident.

    "We still believe we can go there and score goals. The key for us is to stop them scoring goals,'' Melbourne defender Rodrigo Vargas said.

    "We win on Wednesday night and we're still only a point behind with two games left.''

    2006 runners-up Al Karama is just about to clinch another Syrian league title and three points at home to Qatari powerhouse Al Sadd will put the team in the last eight for the third consecutive year, provided Group C strugglers Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia and UAE's Al-Wahda draw.

    Group A is the closest with three points separating all four teams.

    Kuruvchi of Uzbekistan is in first and can cement top spot with a home win against third-placed Al-Ittihad of Syria.

    The Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia is second and the 2004 and 2005 champions will be hoping to shake off the recent disappointment at missing out on the Saudi league title by the narrowest of margins last week.

    Sepahan lose star striker

    The Jeddah team takes on 2007 runners-up Sepahan. The Iranians are without star striker Mahmoud Karimi, absent with a damaged eye.

    A win for Saipa of Iran in Group B against Iraq's Al Quwa Al Jawiya will, barring unusual events, almost certainly put Ali Daei's team in the last eight.

    In the other match, Al Wasl of UAE and Kuwait Sports Club have to win to keep their faint hopes alive.

    "We don't have a choice but to clinch the three points in Kuwait. Any other results will dash our hopes of reaching the quarterfinals,'' said Walid Al Shaibany, Al Wasl's executive manager.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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