Imaginations are flaring ahead of this year’s AFC Champions League final, with inaugural champions Al Ain and 2006 winners Jeonbuk Motors doing battle in their first-ever meeting. Having tasted Asian supremacy, either side enter the final aiming to lift the trophy for the second time and to join Al Ittihad and Guangzhou Evergrande as the tournament's most successful teams.
While increasing viewers and record-high prize money offer plenty of motivation, the lure of a berth at December's FIFA Club World Cup, where the winners will enjoy their second appearance representing Asia, is an enticing addition to regional dominance.
Both sides have personal incentives, too. Having conceded the K-League title to FC Seoul, Jeonbuk are determined to win the AFC Champions League as they seek to make amends with a continental success. Al Ain, too, have their sights firmly fixed at clinching the Asian title after the failure to defend their position as domestic champions this season. The K-League giants play the hosts in the first leg this Saturday before travelling to Abu Dhabi for the return in a week's time. Join FIFA.com as we take a closer look.
The two-legged final promises plenty of intrigue in a meeting between a pair of experienced coaches and two groups of talented players. Al Ain tactician Zlatko Dalic is no stranger on the Asian scene, having twice taken his side to the knockout phase in 2014 and 2015. It is, however, his opposite number Choi Kanghee who enters the fray with more to brag about, having overseen Jeonbuk's title-winning campaign back in 2006. He would guide Jeonbuk to the final for a second time in the 2011 edition, during which they lost out to Qatari side Al Sadd in dramatic fashion.
Catching the most attention are the two team's notable stars. Pulling the strings for Al Ain is none other than Omar Abdulrahman, who is hotly tipped to win this year's AFC Player of the Year award following his excellent displays with both club and country. In-form Brazilian striker Douglas shoulders the goal-scoring attack while both Caio and Danilo Asprilla can cause problems for rival defenders. Spearheading the attack for Jeonbuk is Leonardo, who has racked up eight goals in this campaign. Evergreen predator Lee Donggook remains in his prime despite being 37 years old and Lee Jaesung can provide the drive from midfield.
Neither side head to the final in spectacular form. Al Ain had to settle for a 2-2 draw with BaniYas FC at home in a recent league match. Having lost to FC Seoul 1-0 in the Jeonbuk in the K-League title-decider, Jeonbuk will be keen to put their disappointment behind them.
While both sides boast creative talents and predators, towering forward Kim Shinwook may provide Jeonbuk with the key offensive tool to break the deadlock considering his recent outstanding form with both club and country. At 197 cm, the 28-year-old possesses pace, skill and superb aerial ability. Kim has previous in the competition too, having rampaged throughout the 2012 edition, scoring six times as his former club Ulsan Hyundai won in style. He played a key role as Jeonbuk eliminated fellow K-League side FC Seoul in the semi-finals over two legs this season, too, and Jeonbuk will be hopeful of re-capturing the Asian laurels should their man maintain his top form.
3 - *It marks both Al Ain and Jeonbuk Motors' third appearance in the AFC Champions League final, where each side will compete for their second continental title.
What they said
"At the beginning of the season, everyone’s goal was to lift the 2016 AFC Champions League trophy. We have this common desire and target, so this builds good chemistry within the team and we are very motivated to achieve this goal. The first leg is a home game and we will be out to win it. That will make the second leg easier, but we still need to prepare well for it," Jeonbuk Motors midfielder Lee Jaesung
"The AFC Champions League title means far more to me than being Asia’s best player. If I win the best player awards and we lose the championship, it doesn’t mean a thing - we’ve lost everything. It only matters if you win the final. I hope to claim both," *Al Ain captain Omar Abdulrahman *
First leg: 19 November
Jeonbuk Motors-Al Ain
Second leg: 26 November
Al Ain-Jeonbuk Motors