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K League in 2021 AFC Champions League Round of 16

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Ten K League rounds have passed since the AFC Champions League Group Stage but attention now turns back to Asia's premier intercontinental knockout competition. All four K League clubs are set to take to the field this week as the competition reaches the one-leg Round of 16. On Tuesday, holders Ulsan Hyundai are at home to J.League champions Kawasaki Frontale while Daegu FC take on Nagoya Grampus in Japan for what will be the Sky Blues' first ever ACL knockout match. Then on Wednesday Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors take on BG Pathum United in Jeonju and Pohang Steelers head to Yanmar Stadium Nagai to take on Cerezo Osaka.

Tuesday 14th September 2021

Nagoya Grampus (JPN) vs Daegu FC (KOR) - 18:00 KST

The first K League team to take to the field in this year's AFC Champions League Round of 16 is Daegu FC who face Nagoya Grampus from Japan at the latter's Toyota Stadium. Daegu enter the ACL knockouts for the first time in their history and so will been keen to put their best foot forward. The Sky Blues are in good form, too, having picked up two wins and a draw from their last three matches. Daegu, though, will want to improve their form against teams from Japan having played four and lost four. In the 2019 group stages, what was then Andre Gaspar's side lost twice to Sanfrecce Hiroshima. This season, Daegu were on the losing side twice against Kawasaki Frontale. 

Daegu's opponents Nagoya Grampus are in excellent form having picked up seven wins from their last eight in all competitions. Nagoya finished top of ACL Group G and picked up four points from six against Pohang Steelers in this year's group stage. Nagoya head into the knockouts of the ACL for the first time since 2012. The club's best was the semifinals in 2009. 

Ulsan Hyundai (KOR) vs Kawasaki Frontale (JPN) - 20:00 KST

The second of three K League versus J.League Round of 16 ties sees Ulsan Hyundai look to overcome Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale in Tuesday's later kick-off. Ulsan topped Group F to make it to the knockouts, winning five and drawing one. In the league since the ACL break, the Horangi have lost just once in ten outings with six wins and three draws. The K League table-toppers come up against tricky opposition in the team which sits top of J1 and has won three titles in the last four years. In domestic action, Kawasaki are on a run of two wins in seven matches in all competitions. 

Frontale haven't reached the Round of 16 since 2017, a feat which the club has managed just four times in its history from eight appearances in the ACL. The furthest Kawasaki Frontale has gone in the competition is the quarter-finals (2007, 2009). Ulsan are unbeaten in their last four meetings with Kawasaki Frontale with their last loss coming in 2014. From seven total meetings, Ulsan have three wins to Kawasaki's two and two draws. The most recent meetings came in the 2019 group stage when Ulsan picked up a 1-0 win at home and a 2-2 draw in Japan. Against J.League opposition, Ulsan have a record of ten, four draws and six losses in 20 meetings since 2006 with just one loss in the last eight encounters.

[READ: K League Internationals September 2021 Part 4]

Wednesday 15th September 2021

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) vs BG Pathum United (THA) - 17:30 KST

Playing at their home stadium in ACL for only the second time since 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Wednesday take on Thai Premier League side BG Pathum United. Jeonbuk will be looking to make it to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2018 having come up a touch short in their last two campaigns. The two-times champions of Asia are on a run of just one loss in their last five in K League and two in ten since the ACL group stages. Jeonbuk have never faced BG Pathum United before but have come up against Thai opposition on ten occasions since 2006, winning six, drawing two and losing just two - both against Buriram United (2018, 2019). 

After two games played in the new season, BG Pathum United sit second with a draw and a win in the Thai Premier League. The reigning champions finished second in ACL Group F this July with four wins and make it to the last 16 for the first time in the club's history. In this year's group stages, Pathum lost both their matches with K League giants Ulsan for what were the team's only previous meetings with Korean opposition. 

Cerezo Osaka (JPN) vs Pohang Steelers (KOR) - 18:00 KST

Pohang Steelers take on J.League side Cerezo Osaka in Japan this Wednesday evening looking to return to winning ways after defeat to Daegu FC on Friday night. Pohang's appearance in ACL this year was the three-time winners' first since 2016. After finishing second in Group G, the Steelers are set to take to the field for an AFC Champions League knockout match for the first time since 2014 when the North Gyeongsang side reached the quarters. Quarter-final appearances in 2014 and 2010 remain as Pohang's best since last winning the competition in 2009. This season, though, since returning from the ACL break in July, the Steelers have won just three times in 10 matches and have slipped to fifth in the table. Kim Gi-dong's men are also on a run of just one win in five. 

There have been two previous meetings between Pohang and Cerezo, both in the 2014 campaign. That year, Pohang won 2-0 in Japan and drew 1-1 at home. Against J.League opposition, the Steelers have a record of just two losses with eight wins and four draws from 14 meetings since 2008. Pohang's opponents, Cerezo Osaka, sit 12th in J1 this term and welcome the Steelers on the back of a defeat to Consadole Sapporo. However, Cerezo have picked up three wins from their last five in all competitions including a 4-0 J.League Cup second leg win over cross-town rivals Gamba Osaka. 

[READ: K League Internationals September 2021 Part 3]

Paul Neat
Managing Editor
Twitter: @NeatPaul