The draw for the 2019 Asian Champions League has taken place and while just one of Melbourne Victory’s group stage opponents is locked in, Football Operations Manager Paul Trimboli is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
As things stand, the A-League Champions have only two-time ACL champions Guangzhou Evergrande for company in Group F, with the Chinese side earning direct qualification on the back of a runners-up finish in their domestic competition the season just past.
“[They’ll be] very tough, we know that the top two Chinese teams have been incredibly tough over the past half a dozen years,” Trimboli said following the draw in Malaysia.
“Our other two opponents are unknown at this stage, but with the Korean FA Cup final coming up we’ll find out one of them pretty soon.”
That match pits Ulsan Hyundai against Daegu FC, with Trimboli acutely aware of the threats posed by the former.
“We had [Ulsan] last campaign and found them very difficult.
“In the opening game at home we played a 3-3 draw - an incredible match - and then they did a number on us in the return fixture.
“We’ve got some scores to settle if it’s them,” Trimboli said with a smile.
“Daegu we don’t know a lot about at this stage, and obviously we’ll have to wait on the playoff [to determine the final member of the group].”
That final spot will be taken by a side from one of Thailand, The Phillipines, Myanmar or Japan.
“I think everyone would love to see a Japanese team, that would be great.
“We get a lot of Japanese fans coming along to normal training sessions, waiting outside the office wanting to know when they can see Keisuke, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
With the path into the knockout stages of the tournament plotted Trimboli says the Club’s ambitions are clear.
“It’s a very difficult competition, only one Australian side has ever won it.
“We’re under no illusion how hard it is, but we’ve made the Round of 16 recently, so our starting point is to better that.”
The 2019 Asian Champions League Group Stage kicks off on March 4th, 2019, with Melbourne Victory’s full fixture to be determined in due course.