The 2016 Asian Champions League draw has been completed though there are still many unknowns. On the East side including clubs from South Korea, Japan, China and Australia, there are some headline matches already penned in.
In Group G Australia’s number one ranked team Melbourne Victory will line up against Suwon Samsung Bluewings of South Korea. Suwon finished second to a dominant Jeonbuk in the K-League but the Bluewings are one of the best supported clubs in South Korea.
In Group H reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande will travel to Sydney. The Felip Scolari managed outfit are currently preparing for the Club World Cup in Japan, but from February 2016 they’ll be busy defending their Asian Champions League title.
The Group H draw will have Sydney FC manager Graham Arnold licking his lips. Arnold has proved himself consistently successful in Australia however, his foray into J-League management was a disaster. After leaving Central Coast Mariners as a champion Arnold took up a post at Vegalta Sendai, only to walk away from the role when senior players stonewalled any new policies he looked to implement.
Meanwhile in Group E, Jeonbuk look to have been rewarded for their total dominance in the K-League. They’ve been drawn alongside China’s FA Cup winners Jiangsu Sainty, Vietnam’s Binh Duong and a play off winner from Thailand, Myanmar or Japan.
Though on paper Jeonbuk’s draw looks a cake walk their have been rumours of Jiangsu Sainty going on an off season spending spree, which would likely make things a little more difficult. Also in Group E, there is a strong likelihood that Japan’s Gamba Osaka will join Jeonbuk, the team that eliminated them in the 2015 competition.
As Gamba Osaka are still alive in the Emperors Cup, they’re group draw cannot be finalised. Unfortunately, the J-League has everyone in the dark as to who is their 2nd, 3rd and 4th elected teams.
Finally in Group F there are Sanfrecce Hiroshima, FC Seoul and Buriram United. Hiroshima were recently crowned champions of Japan after winning a two legged final against Gamba. The ‘purple archers’ will be looking to improve upon previous efforts, as will Thailand’s Buriram who crashed out after an impressive start to the Group Stage in 2015.
Australia’s Adelaide United will likely play China’s Shandong Luneng in a play-off for the final position in Group F.