Admin September 30, 2019

  • AFC Champions League semi-final line-up features a trio of former champions
  • Both Guangzhou and Urawa target a record third Asian title
  • Al Hilal seek to win their maiden title

A trio of former champions take will take centre stage as the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals get underway on Tuesday. With the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 awaiting the overall victor in just over two months time, there is a dual prize on offer.

Much focus will be on the contest between Urawa Red Diamonds and Guangzhou Evergrande, with both sides keen on winning the title for a record third time. In the west, Al Sadd will be looking to emulate their tournament-winning heroics in 2011, but it is their opponents who boast a superior head-to-head record.

Semi-final fixtures
1-2 October (1st leg); 22-23 October (2nd leg)
Al Sadd-Al Hilal
Urawa Red Diamonds-Guangzhou Evergrande

The match
Urawa Red Diamonds-Guangzhou Evergrande
Having each won the AFC Champions League twice the two sides need no further motivation heading to the showdown as they aim to not only progress to the final, but to become the first Asian team to create history and win the title for a record third time.

On paper, Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s Urawa enters their fifth Champions League encounter against Guangzhou with a slight mental edge, having won two and drawn one of their past four meetings. Notably, Urawa drew at home and won away in the 2016 group campaign which contributed in condemning Guangzhou to an early exit.

Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou can, for their part, take heart from their showings in 2013 when they routed Urawa 3-0 at home en route to their maiden success. Adding to that, the Chinese champions have been victorious in all past seven meetings against J League sides in the knockout stage.

An opening victory at home is all that Urawa need to rediscover their winning form, having gone 11 games without a win in all competitions. Despite losing to Wuhan Zall in the recent C League outing, however, Guangzhou maintained their place at the top of the local table and are hopeful of clinching an Asian and domestic double this season.

The other attraction
Al Sadd-Al Hilal
It is familiar foes that re-unite with the two sides having played against each other on no less than eight occasions at this level. On paper, Razvan Lucescu’s Al Hilal enter the contest with a clear mental edge having claimed four wins and three draws in past encounters. But they will be wary of the recent form of Xavi’s Al Sadd, who overcame Saudi side Al Ahli to reach the last four.

Furthermore, the Qatari side are boosted by a recent 3-1 victory at Al Sailiya which cemented their place at the top of the domestic standings. Al Hilal, too, defeated Taawoun in the Saudi league to consolidate their leaders’ place.

The players
Having racked up seven goals during the campaign, Urawa’s veteran striker Shinzo Koroki’s goal-scoring form will likely be key if his side are to progress. And the same can be said to Anderson Talisca of Guangzhou, whose goals have proved vital for his side so far. Meanwhile, All Sadd will look to their Algerian striker Baghdad Bounedjah, who has recently showed unstoppable form on both the domestic and Asian front, while Al Hilal can count on in-form goal-getter Bafetimbi Gomis.

The stat
16 – Al Hilal are the competition’s most experienced campaigners with this year’s edition marking their 16th Champions League appearance.

What they said
“The Japanese teams are technically very good and they are very similar to European teams. But at the same time, Chinese football has its own style. Above all, becoming a champion of Asia is my goal. It’s why I am here.” Guangzhou Evergrande forward Anderson Talisca