The second round of the group stages of Asia’s secondary club football tournament - the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2017 - is all set to commence on March 6th. Let's take a sneak-peek at the fixtures:
GROUP A (WEST ZONE)
Al Ahli (JOR) vs Al Zawraa (IRQ): Al Ahli were beaten in the opening round by Al Jaish 1-0 but are gearing up to host their first ever AFC Cup group stage game at home against Al Zawraa of Iraq. The Iraqi club were held to a draw in the first round against Al Suwaiq. As such, a win is of paramount importance to both teams unless they want to play catch up from an early stage.
The absence of suspended defender Salim Obaid might be a blow for Al Ahli while the Iraqis will be looking towards their star striker Mustafa Kareem to deliver the goods.
Venue: Amman International stadium, Amman
Kickoff: March 6, 17:00 UTC+2
Al Suwaiq (OMA) vs Al Jaish (SYR): Al Suwaiq, who were held to a goalless stalemate by Al Zawraa, will want to get their first win on the board when they host early group toppers Al Jaish at home. Theirs is no simple task considering that Al Jaish have been on a good run of form and are coming off a win against Al Ahli.
The Syrians will want to maintain that momentum and take firm charge of Group A. They will hope that midfielder Mohammad Hamdoko who scored the winner in the previous round will be at his best.
Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat
Kickoff: March 6, 19:00 UTC+4
GROUP B (WEST ZONE)
Al Wahda (SYR) vs Safa SC (LIB): Al Wahda will be eager to continue in their winning ways and gain the upperhand in this group when they host Safa SC in the second round of fixtures. But Safa SC will prove to be a tough nut to crack, given that they held the defending champions Air Force club of Iraq in the opening round - which is no mean feat.
The Syrian team will have to play to their potential if they are to harbour any hopes to taking control of Group B and it is very important considering that being a group winner guarantees the team automatic progress to the next phase.
Venue: Said Municipal Stadium, Said
Kickoff: March 6, 14:30 UTC+2
Air Force Club (IRQ) vs Al Hidd (BHR): The defending champions will have nothing but a win on their minds when they host Bahrain’s Al Hidd on Monday. The Bahranian side were beaten by Al Wahda in the opening round and Air Force Club will hope for a similar result.
The Bahranian side were woeful in an attacking sense in the last game and will be looking to strengthen their attack. Air Force club, on the other hand, need to ensure they don’t fall further behind Al Wahda.
Venue: Al Wakrah Sports Club, Doha
Kickoff: March 6th, 18:00 UTC + 3
GROUP C (WEST ZONE)
Nejmeh SC (LIB) vs Saham Club (OMA): Nejmeh registered a loss in their opening group game which means a potentially vital three points are on offer. The hosts, Nejmeh fell to a 1-0 defeat to Al Wehdat last time out while Saham managed to prevail over Al Muharraq 3-2 with Mohammed Al Ghassani scoring a late winner.
Saham SC can take an early lead in Group C if they manage to down Nejmeh SC on Wednesday. Can they do it? We’ll have to wait and see.
Venue: Saida Municipal Stadium, Saida
Kickoff: March 7, 14:30 UTC+2
Al Muharraq (BHR) vs Al Wehdat (JOR): If Al Muharraq harbour any hopes of replicating their run to the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup last year, they cannot afford to lose or draw against Jordan’s Al Wehdat on Wednesday. The Bahranian side fell to a shock 3-2 reverse against Saham SC last week and again find themselves in a position where only a win will do.
Al Wehdat, who defeated Nejmeh 1-0, will prove to be a tough opposition for the Bahrain side. But Al Muharraq will be without first choice goalkeeper Sayed Mohamed Abbas for this tie.
Venue: Bahrain National Stadium, Manama
Kickoff: March 7, 18:30 UTC+3
GROUP F (ASEAN ZONE)
Magwe FC (MYA) vs Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS): 2015 AFC Cup winner Johor Darul Ta’zim will be hoping to build on their opening round victory against Cambodia’s Beoungket Angkor when they travel to Myanmar to take on Magwe FC. The Myanmar-based side, meanwhile are hosting their first ever AFC Cup group stage game at home and will be up for the clash as a result.
After managing to hold off Global FC, it would be foolish to write off Magwe FC. Even then, Magwe are huge underdogs against last year’s semifinalists who are expected to get the win and take control of Group F on Tuesday.
Venue: Youth Training Centre, Yangon
Kickoff: March 7, 15:30 UTC+7
Beoungket Angkor (CAM) vs Global FC (PHI): Beoungket Angkor, also making their competition debut, will be eyeing their first ever points while Global FC would like nothing more than to notch another win and keep pace with Johor. As such, this game in Phenom Penh is likely to see an intense battle.
The Philippine side are again the favourites for this game but Beoungket Angkor will need a huge rise in standards to come out of this tie with at least a win.
Venue: National Olympic stadium, Phnom Penh
Kickoff: March 7, 18:00 UTC+7
GROUP G (ASEAN ZONE):
Ceres Negros (PHI) vs Tampines Rovers (SIN): Last year’s quarter-finalist Tampines Rovers got their Group G campaign to a perfect start in the last round and will be looking to continue in the same vein when they travel to face Ceres Negros, a familiar continental opponent.
Ceres, themselves, were held to a 1-1 draw by Hanoi in the previous round and as such have no liberty to take this game easy. Meanwhile, a win could really see Tampines Rovers go well clear of their opponents in this group.
Venue: Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium, Bacolod City
Kickoff: March 7, 19:30 UTC+8
Felda United (MAS) vs Hanoi FC (VIE): Malaysian side Felda United fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Tampines Rovers in the previous round and will be looking for a better result when Hanoi FC come calling on Tuesday. Felda were distinctly average in that particular game and need to come up with a highly improved performance against a gritty Hanoi side.
The Vietnamese club did well to hold Ceres Negros in the opening round with youngster Aung Thu giving a good account of himself. Will he be able to inspire Hanoi again on Tuesday?
Venue: Shah Alam Stadium, Shah Alam
Kickoff: March 7, 16:45 UTC+8
GROUP H (ASEAN ZONE)
Than Quang Ninh (VIE) vs Yadanarbon (MYA): With just three teams in Group H, every positive result is important and Myanmar’s Yadanarbon will be looking to assume control of the group when they play Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh on Wednesday.
Than Quang Ninh are making their debut appearance in this competition following their Vietnamese Cup win last year. But, Yadanarbon who achieved a brilliant opening day win by downing Singapore’s Home United, will be the favourites.
Venue: My Dinh stadium, Hanoi
Kickoff: March 8, 18:00 UTC+7