Seven down, one to go: Will Kitchee or Daegu claim final ACL last-16 berth?

The group stage action in the East Zone of the 2021 AFC Champions League is entering the do-or-die stage, with only one of the eight places in the Round of 16 still on offer ahead of the Sunday's final four matches.

The Japanese trio of Cerezo Osaka, Nagoya Grampus and Kawasaki Frontale joined defending champions Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea and compatriots Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as the first five East Asian teams though to the last-16, before BG Pathum United and Pohang Steelers also secured their progress as two of the three best-placed runners-up.

With Gamba Osaka now out of the running, it means that the final spot will either be taken by South Korean outfit Daegu FC or Hong Kong's Kitchee, who currently occupy second positions in Groups I and J respectively.

Ahead of Sunday's final matches in Groups F and and I, we take a look at how the qualified teams booked their last-16 berths, as well as what the situation is for Daegu and Kitchee.

Group F - Pathum United advance with a game to spare

The expanded Champions League commenced with plenty of optimism for Southeast Asia. The region had a record nine clubs from five countries -- Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Philippines -- in the group stages, but only one will march on into the Round of 16.

BG Pathum United have 12 points with a game left to play. The Rabbits had their knockout chances almost wrecked by one of their ASEAN neighbours Kaya FC-Iloilo in their penultimate match on Thursday, but dug deep to come away with a 1-0 victory at the Leo Stadium in Pathum Thani.

And after the Group J action concluded on Friday with Kitchee and Cerezo drawing 0-0, Pathum are now certain to advance as their tally cannot be bettered by three other contenders.

Reigning champions Ulsan, who are Pathum's next opponents, lead the group with 15 points and are also guaranteed a berth even if they drop to second spot.

Group G - Pohang advance after nervous wait

With Group G action finished, Nagoya have won it with 16 points but a final-day draw against Pohang saw them spurn the chance to become only the fifth team in the competition's history to win all six group-stage matches.

Meanwhile, Pohang -- on 11 points -- originally faced a nervous wait to discover if that tally would be enough to advance as one of the three best-placed runners-up, although that proved to be the case after Gamba failed to better their haul on Saturday.

Johor Darul Ta'zim and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol round off Group G on four and two points respectively.

Group H - Defeat to Jeonbuk ends Gamba's charge

For Gamba and their hopes of booking a place in the Round of 16, it all came down to Saturday's game against Jeonbuk at the Milliy Stadium in Tashkent.

Jeonbuk were at no risk of being overtaken at the top as they boasted a four-point lead over Gamba ahead of their final match, meaning that the Japanese side's only chance of qualifying was by getting all three points against the South Koreans on Saturday and hoping to qualify as one of the runners-up.

Despite the high stakes on offer, Gamba contrived to produce a lacklustre display and a 2-1 defeat ended their qualification hopes.

Group I - Defeat to Kawasaki Frontale dampens Daegu's chances

Daegu went into their penultimate group fixture hoping to go level on points with group leaders Kawasaki Frontale. However, it was not to be as Frontale powered to a 3-1 victory making it five wins out of five in Group I and booking a place in the Round of 16.

The defeat left Daegu with just nine points to their credit and needing a win against Philippines' United City on the final matchday to boost their fading last-16 hopes.

The K League 1 outfit currently sit outside the qualification places but, coming up against a United City side whom they thrashed 7-0 in their first exchange, the South Koreans will be confident of getting the work done again on Sunday.

The equation is simple enough for Daegu: win and they are through.

Group J - Kitchee have to wait to make history for Hong Kong

It has been an extremely commendable display from Kitchee on their return to Asia's premier club competition after a two-season hiatus. From finishing bottom of the pile in ACL 2018 to securing second spot in their group in the 2021 edition, the Bluebirds have definitely made a step up on their return to Asia.

Nonetheless, a 0-0 draw with Cerezo Osaka in the final match leaves them needing other results to go their way if they are to advance as one of the three best runners-up.

Half the job has been done courtesy of Gamba's failure, but Daegu can still overtake them from Group I.