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S. Korean teams back in AFC Champion League action this week

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- After a short break, four South Korean clubs will return to action in the group stage at the AFC Champion League this week, hoping to take a step closer to a berth in the knockout phase.

In perhaps the most anticipated match of the week involving K League Classic clubs, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors will host Guangzhou Evergrande of China, the defending AFC champ, on Wednesday in their Group G showdown.

On March 18 in Guangzhou, the Chinese club defeated Jeonbuk 3-1, a match that featured a disputed call that erased what would have been a game-tying goal by Jeonbuk in the second half.

Jung In-hwan's header was called back on a phantom goalkeeper charging, and Jeonbuk's head coach Choi Kang-hee vowed revenge against Guangzhou at home. The controversy prompted the Korea Football Association and the K League to ask the AFC to be more vigilant about officiating in the top Asian club competition.

Guangzhou leads the group with seven points, and Jeonbuk is tied with Melbourne Victory at four points.

This is the third straight year in which Jeonbuk and Guangzhou have been paired in the same AFC group.

Pohang Steelers, the defending K League Classic champ, will travel to China on Wednesday to face Shandong Luneng in Group E. The two clubs are tied atop the group at five points apiece. Pohang is riding a three-game winning streak in the domestic league.

Ulsan Hyundai will visit Guizhou Renhe in China in Group H on Tuesday. Ulsan is leading Group H with seven points, while Guizhou is in last place with one point.

Ulsan is also in first place in the K League Classic so far with four wins and one loss. Head coach Jo Min-gook has decided to leave some of his regulars at home for the road trip. Striker Kim Shin-wook and midfielder Rafinha will get a breather, and key defensive backs Lee Yong and Kang Min-soo will also be sitting out this week's AFC match.

Ulsan, like other South Koreans teams in AFC play, has played through a tight schedule over the first several weeks of the season, and Jo said he wanted to give reserves a chance to step up and start taking on bigger responsibilities for the rest of the season.

FC Seoul will be home on Tuesday, hosting Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Group F action.

Seoul and Hiroshima are tied at four points, one behind the leader Beijing Guoan, and one better than Central Coast Mariners of Australia in the crowded Group F.

At a pre-match press conference on Monday, FC Seoul's head coach Choi Yong-soo said this was "a must-win game" for his club.

"Teams are so bunched up right now, and we might need a tiebreaker (to determine who will advance to the next stage)," Choi said. "Away games are so difficult to win in the AFC Champions League, so we have to collect points at home when we can."

Choi said the result against Hiroshima will go a long way toward determining who will finish in the top two in the group and added, "Our players are all fired up for this game, and I expect a good match from them."

The K League Classic has produced three AFC champions in the past five seasons.

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