As the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup got into full gear, the draw for the 2016 AFC Champions League took place, and the A-League‘s best learned their fate. Australian sides Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory have to deal with Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao and Suwon Samsung in Groups H and G, respectively. One of Sydney FC’s opponents in their group will be either Gamba Osaka or Urawa Red Diamonds. Both are in the race for the Emperor’s Cup, whose quarterfinals have been previewed already on TST.
As for fellow Australian side Adelaide United, a playoff match with either China’s Shandong Luneng, Indian giant Mohun Bagan Athletic Club or Singaporean powerhouse Tampines Rovers awaits. The winner of that playoff enters Group F, where the likes of Sanfrecce Hiroshima (who defeated Auckland City 2-0) and K.League titan FC Seoul await. Here’s the breakdown.
AFC Champions League 2016 Groups
Group A: FOOLAD MOBARAKEH SEPAHAN (IRN), AL NASR (UAE), LOKOMOTIV (UZB), Winner of Playoff 1 (West)
Group B: AL NASSR (KSA), ZOBAHAN (IRN), LEKHWIYA (QAT), Winner of Playoff 3 (West)
Group C: PAKHTAKOR (UZB), AL HILAL (KSA), TRACTORSAZI TABRIZ (IRN), Winner of Playoff 4 (West)
Group D: AL AIN (UAE), NASAF (UZB), AL AHLI (KSA), Winner of Playoff 2 (West)
Group E: JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS (KOR), JIANGSU SAINTY (CHN), BECAMEX BINH DUONG (VIE), Winner of Playoff 2 (East)
Group F: SANFRECCE HIROSHIMA (JPN), FC SEOUL (KOR), BURIRAM UNITED (THA), Winner of Playoff 3 (East)
Group G: MELBOURNE VICTORY (AUS), JAPAN 2ND CLUB (JPN), SUWON SAMSUNG BLUEWINGS FC (KOR), Winner of Playoff 4 (East)
Group H: GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE (CHN), SYDNEY FC (AUS), JAPAN 3RD CLUB (JPN), Winner of Playoff 1 (East)
Group Stage Schedule
|Matchday 1||23-24 February 2016 (Tuesday-Wednesday)|
|Matchday 2||1-2 March 2016 (Tuesday-Wednesday)|
|Matchday 3||15-16 March 2016 (Tuesday-Wednesday)|
|Matchday 4||5-6 April 2016 (Tuesday-Wednesday)|
|Matchday 5||19-20 April 2016 (Tuesday-Wednesday)|
|Matchday 6||3-4 May 2016 (Tuesday-Wednesday)|
“We will learn all we can about Sydney FC. We know it will be tough and have a lot of respect for all Australian teams,” said Liu Yongzhou, Guangzhou Evergrande president. “But we don’t have a problem against them and we don’t play any better or worse against Australian teams than any other opponent. We beat Western Sydney Wanderers last season and will do all we can to beat Sydney FC too.”
“I had the privilege of coming up against Guangzhou when I was at the Mariners when we made the last 16 when Marcello Lippi was coach,” Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold said. “I’ve had experience with Guangzhou and going there, I’ve got two years experience in the Asian Champions League so I know what it’s about, so I’ll use my experiences hopefully to good stead.
“It’s a good draw. Travel is decent with Guangzhou being a major city and Osaka being a major city. Getting Guangzhou is going to be a great test for us and it’s exciting for us to be taking on the team that’s been crowned champions of Asia twice in the last three years and also facing them in Sydney.”
“The schedule is very similar to last year,” said Lee Eun-ho of Suwon. “It was tough for both teams. The climates were very different, still cold in Korea and then warm in Australia. “Some of our players caught colds after the long trip and the difference in temperatures. But we played well against Brisbane and enjoyed the two games and we hope we can play like that again.
“We know that Australian teams are always very competitive. It is always different in Australia – the travel, the climate and the style of play. It presents challenges to us but we know it is difficult for them too, as they have lots of travel.”
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