AFC Cup 2017: South, East, Central and ASEAN Zone preview

Asia's secondary club competition is about to witness yet another vital round of matches in the South, Central, East and ASEAN Zones on Tuesday and Wednesday. While several groups will see matchday five, some are only in their third round of matches. As such, let's take a peek at what awaits us in the coming days. 

GROUP D (CENTRAL ZONE)

Hosilot vs Dordoi

Dordoi FC (KGZ) v Altyn Asyr (TKM): Kyrgyz Republic's Dordoi FC will have nothing but a win on their minds when they host Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr on Tuesday in Bishkek. Dordoi will be pumped up after defeating FC Alay 1-0 in the previous round, which has propelled them to three points, one below joint-leaders Istiklol and Altyn Asyr. As such a win could see them stake claim to progress from this round. 

Altyn Asyr might be the fancied side in this tie but after a listless draw against FC Istiklol in the previous round, they have to get going from the outset. A win will be the bare minimum they will want too. 

Venue: Dolen Omurzakov Stadium, Bishkek
Kick-off: April 18, 19:00 UTC+6

AFC Cup: West Zone preview

FC Istiklol (TJK) v FC Alay (KGZ): Tajikistan's FC Istiklol host bottom-placed side FC Alay on Tuesday, looking to surge clear at the top of the table. Though Istiklol played out a 1-1 draw against Altyn Asyr in the last round, the 2015 runners-up are the favourites to gain all three points against a struggling FC Alay who are yet to notch a point in the tournament. 

There are some scares for the teams with Istiklol without the suspended Romish Dzhalilov while FC Alay do not have the services of Murolimzhon Akhmedov for the same reason. Will FC Alay pull off a surprise? We'll have to wait and watch. 

Venue: Dolen Omurzakov Stadium, Bishkek
Kick-off: April 18, 19:00 UTC+6

GROUP E (SOUTH ZONE)

Sunil Chhetri Maziya Bengaluru FC AFC Cup Group Stage 2017

Bengaluru FC (IND) v Abahani Limited Dhaka (BAN): Last year's runners-up Bengaluru FC have the perfect opportunity to extend their lead atop Group E when they host Bangladesh's Abahani Limited Dhaka on Tuesday. After downing Mohun Bagan in the opening round, they had to rely on an injury-time goal to overcome Maziya S&RC in Maldives in the previous round. They had a good outing domestically as well over the weekend and will be buoyed as a result as they take on Abahani. 

The Bangladeshi team, however, are without a point after two back-to-back defeats in the tournament. They could fall well beyond having any realistic chances of progression if they lose against Bengaluru. 

Venue: Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bangalore
Kick-off: April 18, 19:00 UTC+5:30

Know Bengaluru's Rivals: Abahani Ltd

Mohun Bagan (IND) v Maziya Sports & Recreation (MDV): Mohun Bagan host Maziya S&RC in Kolkata on Tuesday in a crucial Group E encounter. Both teams have a win in their kitty and have three points each. As a result, an adverse result or a draw could see them fall off the pace with Bengaluru poised to move further forward, barring an upset against Abahani. 

Mohun Bagan have been winning games domestically without playing at their best and are chasing the I-League title. As such, their attention could be towards the domestic league which is something Maziya will look to exploit. This should be a tight game. 

Venue: Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Kolkata
Kick-off: April 18, 19:00 UTC+5:30

GROUP F (ASEAN ZONE)

Gabriel Guerra, Johor Darul Ta'zim, Global FC, AFC Cup, 05/04/2017

Magwe (MYA) v Global FC (PHI): Philippine side Global FC stormed to the top of the table in the last round with a victory over Johor Darul Ta'zim and now they are in a position where they can be assured of a top-two finish with a point against Myanmar's Global FC who are placed bottom in the group. Global FC have nine points from four games and have been quietly impressive in the group so far. A win will put them in pole position to secure a win with just one more game remaining. 

Magwe, meanwhile, will know that anything less than a win will see them crash out of the tournament. With just two draws so far in their kitty, they are not expected to put up much fight on Wednesday. 

Venue: Youth Training Centre, Yangon
Kick-off: April 19, 15:30 UTC+6:30

Beoungket Angkor (CAM) v Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS): Johor Darul Ta'zim will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they travel to Cambodia to take on Beoungket Angkor FC on Wednesday. Having been outsmarted by Global FC in the previous round, Johor need to win this tie. A Johor loss coupled with a win for Global would see the Philippine side win the group. Johor have been really inconsistent in the tournament so far and need to step up. 

The Cambodians have four points from four fixtures and a surprise win against JDT will see them draw level with the Malaysian side but a loss will see them crash out. Anything can happen but for this game, JDT are the favourites. 

Venue: National Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh
Kick-off: April 19, 18:00 UTC+7

GROUP G (ASEAN ZONE)

Hanoi vs Tampines Rovers

Ceres Negros (PHI) v Hanoi FC (VIE): Group G is extremely compact at the top with just three points separating the top three teams. As such, surprise leaders Hanoi FC, who have eight points, will be looking to pull clear when they face Philippine side Ceres Negros who were defeated 3-0 by Felda United in the previous round. Hanoi can guarantee themselves the top spot with a win and a little help from Tampines Rovers against Felda United. 

Ceres Negros will welcome back Manuel Ott from suspension but are without Martin Steuble as they look to mastermind a victory that will take them level on points with Hanoi. This round will be extremely important for the final outcome in the group. 

Venue: Pana-ad Park and Football Stadium, Bacolod City
Kick-off: April 19, 19:30 UTC+8

Felda United (MAS) v Tampines Rovers (SIN): A rejuvenated Felda United are up against a struggling Tampines Rovers on Wednesday as they look to make up ground on group leaders Hanoi FC. Felda had just two points after the initial three rounds but a morale-boosting 3-0 win over Ceres Negros has put them back in the reckoning for progression from the group. But they need a positive result in this game. 

Singapore's Tampines Rovers have just the three points to show for their efforts so far and were crippled by back-to-back defeats inflicted on them by Hanoi FC. Felda are the favourites on form but Tampines Rovers cannot be written off yet. 

Venue: Tun Abdul Razak Stadium, Jengka
Kick-off: April 19, 20:45 UTC+8

GROUP H (ASEAN ZONE)

Yadanarbon vs Home United

Home United (SIN) v Yadanarbon (MYA): Singapore's Home United are in pole position to win the three-team Group I, provided they defeat Myanmar's Yadanarbon on Tuesday. Having registered back-to-back wins over Than Quang Ninh after an opening round defeat to Yadanarbon, Home United sit atop the group with six points from three games while Yadanarbon have four points from two games. 

The away team badly need a draw or a win even though they have another game against Than Quang Ninh and will draw inspiration from their opening game victory against the side from Singapore. 

Venue: Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore
Kick-off: April 18, 19:30, UTC+8 

Fans' Asian Player of the week

GROUP I (EAST ZONE)

4.25 SC (PRK) v Kigwancha SC (PRK): It's a Pyongyang derby for the first time in the AFC Cup as 4.25 SC host Kigwancha SC in Group I on Tuesday. Having played a game each, both against Mongolian side Erchim FC, the two teams are joint top of the three-team group with a win each. 4.25 SC had the most sparkling of the wins - a 6-0 spanking at home with Kim Yu-song scoring an astounding five goals. 

Kigwancha SC, on the other hand, hammered Erchim 3-0 away. As such, this game could very well have a big say in deciding the Group I winners. These two teams should unleash be a fascinating spectacle in Pyongyang. 

Venue: May Day Stadium, Pyongyang
Kick-off: April 18, 16:00 UTC+8:30

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