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Kuala Lumpur: Following another enthralling Group Stage and Round of 16, the quarter-finals of the 2017 AFC Champions League are guaranteed to provide more exciting moments to remember when the tournament resumes on August 21.

With four clubs who have already tasted continental glory, a former finalist, a team with a superstar attack, undefeated pass-masters, and a side who can boast a home support of six figures per match all in the mix to be crowned kings of Asian football, the 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-finals are eagerly anticipated. 

Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates remain in the hunt for a second Asian title that will help heal the heartbreak of last November’s defeat in the final to Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. 

The previous year’s winners, Guangzhou Evergrande of China, are appearing in their fifth quarter-finals, while Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and Japanese heavyweights Urawa Red Diamonds also know what it takes to lift the continental title. 

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli went all the way to the final in 2012 and the Jeddah-based side will be looking to go one better this time out. China’s Shanghai SIPG, meanwhile, boast the formidable trio of Hulk, Wu Lei and Elkeson in attack and a supporting cast of Oscar and Odil Ahmedov – a quintet that is sure to test opposition defences.

Kawasaki Frontale from the J.League are undefeated on the continent so far and the talented technicians boast the best possession and passing accuracy stats of any team this year on the continent. For Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis, though, the quarter-final stage is uncharted territory but with over 100,000 fans backing them at the majestic Azadi Stadium, anything is possible. 

Last year's runners-up Al Ain will remember their 2017 quarter-final opponents Al Hilal only too well after they were eliminated in the semi-finals of the 2014 edition by the Saudi giants, who themselves will be keen to go one better than their defeat in the final of the same tournament.

The other quarter-final in the West sees a mouth-watering clash between Persepolis and Al Ahli.

In the East, the draw sees an all-Japan and all-China showdown as Kawasaki and former champions Urawa face-off with the winners taking on the victors of the meeting between Shanghai and two-time champions Guangzhou.

That draw followed Play-offs, a Group Stage and Round of 16 which contained 127 matches and 391 goals.

The Group Stage enjoyed some memorable goals.

After easing past Thailand’s Sukothai 3-0 in the Play-off round, Andre Villas-Boas’ Shanghai were drawn in Group F with Urawa, K-League Classic winners FC Seoul and 2014 continental champions Western Sydney Wanderers.

Shanghai and Urawa began with back-to-back wins over FC Seoul and Western Sydney as they showcased their tournament credentials from the kick-off, before claiming a win apiece against each other in a double header on Matchdays Three and Four.

The sides then confirmed their passage to the Round of 16 with a game to spare as the Chinese Super League team beat FC Seoul 4-2 and the J.League outfit routed Western Sydney 6-1 to render their Matchday Six losses to the group’s bottom teams inconsequential.

Villas-Boas’ men were next tasked with domestic rivals Jiangsu FC in the last 16 and goals from Hulk and Ahmedov at Shanghai Stadium saw the hosts come from behind to claim a 2-1 first-leg victory.

A week later in Nanjing, Elkeson and a Yang Xiaotian own-goal had the visitors two up at the interval, before Hulk scored at the death as a 3-2 win secured a 5-3 aggregate victory.

Urawa went down 2-0 after a nightmare first leg against Korea Republic’s Jeju United, before an incredible comeback in the return fixture saw goals from Shinzo Koroki and Tadanari Lee force extra-time at Saitama Stadium.

Ryota Moriwaki then scored a dramatic winner with six minutes remaining as Urawa booked their place in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2008.

Urawa produce a stunning comeback against Jeju United.

Compatriots Kawasaki, paired in Group G with Guangzhou, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and debutants Eastern SC of Hong Kong, edged into the last 16 after following up four successive draws with wins over Suwon and Eastern to progress as table-toppers.

Guangzhou joined the Japanese side after two resounding wins over Eastern and four draws saw them finish level on points with Kawasaki and, crucially, a point ahead of Suwon in what had been a tight battle between the top three.

Things were equally nervy for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s two-time champions in the last 16 as Paulinho’s solitary goal ensured a 1-0 home victory over Kashima Antlers in the first leg, before the Brazilian netted again in a 2-1 away defeat that proved enough for Guangzhou to book their place in the last eight on away goals.

Kawasaki fell behind to Round of 16 debutants Muangthong United but ran out 3-1 first-leg winners after second-half goals from Kengo Nakamura, Yu Kobayashi and Hiroyuki Abe.

A week later, they would make it four wins on the bounce on the continent after easing to a 4-1 victory to return to the last eight for the first time since 2009.

In the West, one of the biggest stories has been the superb performances of reigning AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman, who has been in arguably even more superlative form than in last year’s competition and leads the scoring charts with seven goals.

The 2016 runners-up were tasked with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, Zobahan and Bunyodkor in Group C and, following three wins and a draw, secured successive 3-0 scorelines over the Iranian and Uzbek teams to top the standings.

The Emiratis would be joined in the Knockout Stage by an Omar Al Soma-inspired Al Ahli. The Syrian frontman scored four in the Saudi side’s first five games – including a stunning late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Al Ain – before a 2-0 victory over Zobahan on Matchday Six claimed the Group C runners-up spot.

A clash of the heavyweights in the last 16 saw Al Ain take on two-time continental champions Esteghlal, who claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory in the first leg at a packed Azadi Stadium.

But Al Ain produced a masterclass in the return fixture with Brazilian Caio and Abdulrahman both netting braces in a comprehensive 6-1 win as Zoran Mamic’s side eased into the last eight 6-2 on aggregate.

Al Ahli, meanwhile, were paired with namesakes Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates in their last 16 tie and there was nothing to separate them in a 1-1 first-leg draw in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli win the battle of the namesakes.

The Saudis turned on the style in the second leg in Dubai, though, as Taiseer Al Jassam, Hussain Al Moqahwi and a Saad Abdulameer penalty helped them to a 3-1 victory and a return to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2013.

Al Ahli’s compatriots Al Hilal finished as Group D winners with an unbeaten record, three points ahead of fellow quarter-finalists Persepolis.

Wins over Al Rayyan and Al Wahda, coupled with three draws, saw Al Hilal advance to their ninth successive Knockout Stage with a game to spare, before Nicolas Milesi and Omar Khribin netted doubles in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Al Rayyan to secure top spot.

Persepolis would join them, but it was far from plain sailing as it took a 4-2 Matchday Six victory over Al Wahda – in which Mehdi Taremi scored a hat-trick – to wrap up second place.

Back-to-back 2-1 wins over tournament debutants Esteghlal Khouzestan saw Al Hilal progress, in the end relatively comfortably, to the last eight with an unbeaten record.

And, despite Esteghlal and Esteghlal Khouzestan falling at the last 16 stage, Iranian representation in the quarter-finals was secured by Persepolis who edged past Lekhwiya by the narrowest margins.

A goalless draw at the Azadi in the first leg put the result on a knife edge but come the second meeting in Doha, an unfortunate own goal by Chico Flores proved enough to ensure Persepolis their first quarter-final appearance with the 1-0 aggregate win.

Photos: Lagardère Sports