A new draw format in the AFC Cup quarter-finals has boosted hopes of either South China or Kitchee becoming the first Hong Kong team to reach the regional competition final. For the first time, there are two teams from Hong Kong in the last eight stage, and when the draw is made in Kuala Lumpur on June 18, they will only meet East Asian sides, until one of the four has reached the final. The format is the same for the four other quarter-finalists from the west, guaranteeing a final showdown between East and West. This is good news to East Asia clubs because it has been very difficult to beat Middle East teams and reach the final Chu Chi-kwong Previously, teams in the quarter-finals would draw against each other and an East Asian team have not reached the final since the tournament’s inception in 2004. Middle East nations have dominated and the only time they did not lift the trophy was in 2011 when FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan defeated Al Kuwait 2-1 in the final. Nasaf are also the only non-Middle Eastern team to have reached the final. “This is good news to East Asia clubs because it has been very difficult to beat Middle East teams and reach the final,” said Kitchee director of football Chu Chi-kwong, whose side lost to Erbil of Iraq in the semi-final last year. “We can also save a lot on travelling time and that’s important when the domestic season begins as we will have to play on home and international fronts.” Apart from South China and Kitchee, the two other East Asia quarter-finalists are also from the same country – Johor Darul Ta’zim and Pahang, both of Malaysia. The four clubs are no strangers as Pahang met South China in the group stage this year, but ended up with losses both at home and away. Kitchee had a balanced record against Johor, beating the Malaysians 2-0 at home, but losing the away tie by the same margin. We can also save a lot on travelling time and that’s important when the domestic season begins as we will have to play on home and international fronts Chu Chi-kwong Chu hoped they could avoid meeting Johor as the big spenders have quality overseas players and the atmosphere at Johor’s home ground is intimidating. “Pahang and South China make little difference, but we have a psychological edge over South China because we achieved a very good record against them this season,” he said. Several Kitchee players are out of contract this month and Hong Kong internationals Xu Deshuai and Tsang Chi-hau look set to join Eastern, along with full back Tsang Kam-to.