Monday, 12 December 2016 –
Tonight (December 13) is the draw for the Asian Champions League in 2017 at the Hilton Hotel in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar FC will learn who they will face in the new year.
Roar starts in the play-offs and already has a pretty good idea of what its journey will entail to join the other two in the group stage.
The Queenslanders will have to wait to see which is the first opposition – Global of the Philippines or Singapore’s Tampines Rovers.
It should be a close-run thing.
Tampines is one of Singapore’s big boys and just missed out on the S.League title last season with former England international Jermaine Pennant on the books (he’s since left).
Should Brisbane overcome that challenge then comes the tricky part, a one-off game at the home of Shanghai Shenhua.
Tim Cahill’s former team finished third in the Chinese Super League in 2016 and will be hoping that star striker Demba Ba is fit, though it is entirely possible that the Blues will be busy in the transfer market in the coming weeks.
And if Roar do make it to the group stage, they could face Muangthong United, Thai champs and home to many of the national team’s best players.
Or Eastern of Hong Kong, home to former A-League defender Josh Mitchell and coached by 28 year-old Chan Yuen-ting, the first women to lead a men’s team to a professional top tier title.
Meanwhile, Adelaide and Western Sydney are the two Hyundai A-League clubs with the best record in the competition and have a pretty good idea of what they will be up against in the group stages.Due to the vagaries of the draw, Adelaide knows it will face Jiangsu Suning of China.
Jiangsu finished second in the Chinese Super League after spending plenty of money of Brazilian stars Alex Teixeira and Ramires lining up along with Caltex Socceroo Trent Sainsbury.
The Nanjing side, under Choi Yong-soo, finished the season strongly. Once again, Jiangsu will be expected to spend big over the coming weeks.
Western Sydney Wanderers will be in Group F and will therefore avoid familiar foe Guangzhou Evergrande, winner of the 2013 and 2015 tournament.
The Southern Chinese Tigers, led by Luiz Felipe Scolari, are desperate to bounce back after a surprising and disappointing first round exit last season.
The fourth Chinese contender is the second that has a play-off to contend with even though Shanghai SIPG will be confident of getting to the group stage after its debut last season.
Then, under Sven Goran Eriksson, the Reds got to the last eight before finding Jeonbuk a little too good.
Under Andre Villas-Boas at the helm and with a fully fit Hulk leading the line, fans will be expectant of another knockout stage appearance and will face the Wanderers if it does so.
Continental champions Jeonbuk Motors from South Korea eliminated Melbourne Victory at the second round stage in 2016 and then went on to win it all.
Semi-finalist and domestic champion FC Seoul is there too with Suwon Bluewings another familiar opponent for Australian fans and despite a disappointing season in the league, ended the year by winning the FA Cup.
Jeju United will complete the Korean quartet if it wins its playoff.
Like South Korea, Japan has three teams in the group stage.
Kashima Antlers started December by winning a J.League title number eight, but the country’s most successful team domestically has historically underperformed in the AFC Champions League with the best showing coming in 2008 with a quarter-final spot.
Urawa Reds lifted the trophy in 2007 and will be keen to challenge again.
Whatever happens, it is sure to be another exciting tournament.