Can Ulsan Hyundai and Al Duhail fly the flag for Asia at FIFA Club World Cup?

Ulsan Hyundai earned a berth by winning the AFC Champions League last year. Simon Holmes/Getty Images

After a delay brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup will finally go ahead in Qatar on Thursday, where six teams from all across the globe will vie to be named club champions of the world.

European giants Bayern Munich and their South American counterparts Palmeiras will head into the tournament as the frontrunners, but the other continents have proven in the past an ability to cause an upset or two -- even if none have ever managed to go all the way.

This year, Asia will be represented by Ulsan Hyundai of Korea Republic and Qatar's Al Duhail, but just what are their prospects over the next seven days?

Asian champions Ulsan need to fill Junior void

It was just over a month ago that Ulsan booked their spot in the Club World Cup by winning the AFC Champions League, after defeating Iranian outfit Persepolis 2-1 in the final on Dec. 19.

Despite their current status as kings of Asia, it will be a different-looking Ulsan outfit that take to the field in their opening match against Mexico's UANL on Thursday.

The most notable absentee is Brazilian striker Junior Negrao, the top scorer in both the K League 1 and ACL last season with an impressive 33 goals from 36 matches from the two competitions combined.

Having left on a free transfer, Junior leaves a huge void that Ulsan will be hoping new signing Lukas Hinterseer -- who joined from Germany's Hamburg -- can fill.

Midfield general Sin Jin-ho is another who has departed for greener pastures at Pohang Steelers but the Tigers still have plenty of quality, and should feel confident in their prospects even with a new manager at the helm in South Korea icon Hong Myung-bo.

Having missed Ulsan's ACL campaign last year, the return of goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo should be as good as a new signing, while Yoon Bit-garam and Kim In-sung are two inventive technicians who are always looking to carve apart defences.

It might also be worth keeping a close eye on rising star Won Du-jae, the Most Valuable Player at the 2019 AFC U-23 Championship, who could take it upon himself to step up as Sin's replacement and potentially even catch the interest of scouts from abroad.

Club World Cup could offer Al Duhail much-needed redemption

Al Duhail enter the Club World Cup by virtue of being the reigning champions from host country Qatar, but it already looks certain they will not retain their crown for the 2020-21 season.

Just past the halfway stage of the current Qatar Stars League campaign, Sabri Lamouchi's side already find themselves 13 points behind leaders Al Sadd and would require a minor miracle if they are to make up that deficit.

Salvation could come in the form of the Club World Cup and they will also begin their campaign on Thursday when they take on African champions Al Ahly of Egypt.

Not even the most ardent of Al Duhail fans would dream that they could win the tournament but a couple of strong showings against some quality opponents could go a long way in bringing smiles back to the faces of the supporters, following a season that promised plenty but has thus far failed to live up to expectations.

Given their status as underdogs, it is fortunate that Al Duhail have someone of Medhi Benatia's credentials to call upon, with the Moroccan international able to draw from all the experience he has from his time in Europe playing for the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Still, Al Duhail could pose a threat themselves with a forward line boasting Almoez Ali and Michael Olunga, who will be ably supported by an in-form Edmilson Junior who seems to be relishing a more-attacking role than he enjoyed in previous years.