Mixed news for Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC in ACL draw
Melbourne Victory have avoided Asian nemesis Jeonbuk Motors in the Champions League draw, but face a tough test to reach the knockout rounds all the same.
Kevin Muscat's side was pitted against J-League winners Kawasaki Frontale and Korean powerhouses Ulsan Hyundai in the draw conducted in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night.
Jeonbuk have knocked out Victory on their last two appearances in the competition, in 2014 and 2016, with Muscat in two minds about missing them in 2018.
"It's nice to miss Jeonbuk, although half of me was hoping we'd get them again because we owe them one," he said.
"It's a tough group, but I'm excited and pleased we'll get to go to a couple of new clubs."
Sydney FC also moved closer to a potential fairytale return to Allianz Stadium for Socceroo Matt Jurman.
The maligned centre-back won his first national team caps after moving to K-League side Suwon Bluewings, who must win a play-off to join the Sky Blues in Group H.
Graham Arnold, who will see his side come up against Shanghai Shenhua of China and Japan's Kashima Antlers, welcomed the draw.
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"Shanghai Shenhua are a massive club and our boys will enjoy testing themselves against a side who can attract the likes of Carlos Tevez and Obafemi Martins to their team," he said.
"It will be great for the fans to welcome Matt Jurman back home if we do end up against Suwon."
Victory are likely to also face big-spending Shanghai SIPG should the Chinese Super League club emerge from a play-off.
Brisbane Roar could also yet join the two A-League grand finalists in the competition, should they come through two play-offs in January.
If John Aloisi's side win a home tie with a south-eastern minnow, they'll travel to China's Tianjin Quanjian on January 30 for the right to join group E, with Korean champions Jeonbuk and Hong Kong's Kitchee.
ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW – EAST ASIA
GROUP E: Jeonbuk (South Korea), Kitchee (Hong Kong), Playoff winner, Playoff winner – possibly BRISBANE ROAR
GROUP F: Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Ulsan Hyundai (South Korea), MELBOURNE VICTORY, Playoff winner
GROUP G: Guangzhou Evergrande (China), Japanese club TBC, Jeju United (South Korea), Buriram United (Thailand)
GROUP H: Sydney FC, Shanghai Shenhua (China), Kashima Antlers (Japan), Playoff winner