Tuesday, 13 December 2016 –
There are still a few ifs, buts and wait-and-sees for Hyundai A-League teams after the draw for the 2017 AFC Champions League that took place on Tuesday afternoon in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Fans, coaches and players in Australia will have to wait for a few play-offs and cup finals to take place before they know precisely what will happen, where and when but one thing for sure is this: Adelaide United know enough.
To start with, the Reds will be taking on the holder, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
The Korea Republic team, who also won in 2006, was the best in 2016 and is currently busy at the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
The tournament’s record goalscorer Lee Dong-gook will be aiming to add to his haul of 32 goals in the competition so far. Then there is giant striker Kim Shin-wook and a host of Korea internationals.
There could be a couple of departures though.
Midfield star Lee Jae-sung has been linked with a move to La Liga. Leonardo starred in the continental triumph and may be signing a big-money move in China.
Jeonbuk is sure to reinforce whatever happens.
This is the most successful team in the history of the tournament. Of the Jeonju club’s ten attempts, it has failed to reach the knockout stage just once.
Then there is Jiangsu Suning, one of the biggest spending clubs in the world in 2016.
The Nanjing club started 2016 by paying around A$40 million to Chelsea for Brazilian midfielder Ramires and then A$60 million for the highly-sought Alex Teixeira.
The second Brazilian was perhaps the best of all the foreign imports in China last season, helping Jiangsu to second.
If that was not enough, there is Caltex Socceroo defender Trent Sainsbury in the heart of defence.
Western Sydney Wanderers have gone one better than Adelaide’s final appearance in 2008 by winning in 2014.
The red and black is sure only of facing FC Seoul.
This is not the same Korean club that was so dull when the two teams met in the semi-final stage in 2014 and the group stage in 2015 (then coached by Choi Yong-soo, now with Jiangsu).
In 2016, Seoul made the last four but did so in swashbuckling style with Brazilian striker Adriano top scoring at 13 – before losing to Jeonbuk in the semi-final.
At least snatching the K-League title from the Motors helped soften that blow.
The Wanderers will be likely to meet Shanghai SIPG should the Chinese team win, as expected, its playoff at home to either Sukothai of Thailand or Myanmar’s Yadanarbon.
Shanghai fired former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson at the end of last season and replaced the Swede with Andre Villas-Boas.
The former Chelsea and Tottenham coach will have the likes of Hulk to call upon.
If Brisbane Roar gets through its playoff with either Singapore’s Tampines Rovers or Global from the Philippines then it takes on Shanghai Shenhua in a one-leg play-off in China.
If that is successful then the Queensland team will head to Group E and games with Japanese champion Kashima Antlers and Thai title-holders Muangthong United.
So, after Victory and Sydney shocked some big names this year, the Hyundai A-League has plenty to look forward to again when the continental showpiece kicks off in the new year.