Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Challenges await in AFC Champions League

Challenges await in AFC Champions League.
The draw for the group stage of the 2009 AFC Champions League has thrown up some tough challenges for Japanese clubs.

The opening stages of the Champions League are split into regionalised West Asian and East Asian groups, and Nagoya Grampus will have a tough time of things when they make their debut in the competition.

Dragan Stojkovic's side have been drawn in Group E alongside A-League champions Newcastle Jets, Korean outfit Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i and passionately supported Chinese club Beijing Guoan.

In Group F defending Asian champions Gamba Osaka face a similarly tough task when they come up against K-League runners-up FC Seoul, Chinese giants Shandong Luneng and Sumatra-based Indonesian outfit Sriwijaya FC.

There's a mouth-watering clash of the giants in Group G, where current J. League champions Kashima Antlers will face off against Korean superclub Suwon Bluewings, with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua also in the mix.

The final place in Group G will go to the winner of a play-off featuring Thai club Provincial Electricity Authority, Singapore Armed Forces and Indonesian side PSMS Medan, with the fixtures taking place in late February.

Kawasaki Frontale will fancy their chances of making it out of Group H, where they face Australian side Central Coast Mariners, Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers and Chinese club Tianjin Teda.

The group winners and runners-up will both advance to the Round of 16, with the tournament kicking off on March 10.

The full draw is as follows:

Group A: Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan), Al Ahli (United Arab Emirates), Saba Battery (Iran).

Group B: Persepolis (Iran), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia), Al Gharafa (Qatar), To Be Confirmed

Group C: Al Jazira (UAE), Esteghlal (IR Iran), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Umm Salal (Qatar).

Group D: Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al Shabab (UAE), Sepahan (Iran), Al Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia)

Group E: Ulsan Hyundai (Korea Republic), Newcastle Jets (Australia), Beijing Guoan (China), Nagoya Grampus (Japan)

Group F: Gamba Osaka (Japan), FC Seoul (Korea Republic), Sriwijaya (Indonesia), Shandong Luneng (China)

Group G: Shanghai Shenhua (China), Kashima Antlers (Japan), Suwon Bluewings (Korea Republic), To Be Confirmed

Group H: Central Coast Mariners (Australia), Tianjin Teda (China), Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Pohang Steelers (Korea).

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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