Sydney FC have been drawn against 2015 AFC Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande in group H for the group stage of the 2016 AFC Champions League, following the live draw made in Kuala Lumpur tonight.
The group is rounded out by the third ranked Japanese team, to be announced in January, and the winner of Playoff 1, to be contested between teams from Korea, Vietnam and Hong Kong, as the Sky Blues take part in their third AFC Champions League campaign following spells in 2007 and 2011.
The Sky Blues have never faced Guangzhou, coached by FIFA World Cup winner and former Chelsea FC manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, but have experience against teams from China, remaining undefeated against teams from the nation, having twice faced Shanghai Shenua in the group stage winning twice and drawing twice.
Having faced Guangzhou previously during his time with the Central Coast Mariners, Sydney FC Head Coach Graham Arnold is hoping to utilise that experience in his first foray into Asia with the Sky Blues.
“I had the privilege of coming up against Guangzhou when I was at the Mariners when we made the last 16 when Marcello Lippi was coach,” Arnold said.
“I’ve had experience with Guangzhou and going there, I’ve got two years’ experience in the Asian Champions League so I know what it’s about, so I’ll use my experiences hopefully to good stead.
“It’s a good draw,” he continued.
“Travel, as long as it’s Gamba Osaka and whatever happens in the other one, travel is decent with Guangzhou being a major city and Osaka being a major city.
“Getting Guangzhou is going to be a great test for us and it’s exciting for us to be taking on the team that’s been crowned Champions of Asia twice in the last three years and also facing them in Sydney.”
Sydney FC will kick off their 2016 AFC Champions League campaign in February with the first matchday of the group stage scheduled for the 23-24 February, 2016.
2016 AFC Champions League - Group H:
Guangzhou Evergrande (China)
Sydney FC (Australia)
3rd Japan Club
Playoff 1 Winner (Pohang Steelers [Korea] / Hanoi T&T [Vietnam]/ Kitchee [Hong Kong])
Group H Fixtures:
Wednesday 24 February, 2016 – Japan 3rd club v Sydney FC (A)
Wednesday 2 March, 2016 – Sydney FC v Guangzhou Evergrande (H)
Wednesday 16 March, 2016 – Winner Playoff 1 v Sydney FC (A)
Tuesday 5 April, 2016 – Sydney FC v Winner Playoff 1 (H)
Tuesday 19 April, 2016 – Sydney FC v Japan 3rd Club (H)
Tuesday 3 May, 2016 – Guangzhou Evergrande v Sydney FC (A)