Champions League Defence

It’s been little over three months since the Red & Black faithful experienced the euphoria of claiming the AFC Champions League title against Saudi Arabian powerhouses Al Hilal.

We enter the competition looking to become only the second club alongside Al Ittihad to claim back-to-back titles since the Asian Cup Winners Cup and Asian Super Cup combined to form the Champions League in 2002.
 
A tough group stage as well as an exhausting travel schedule combined with renewed efforts in the Hyundai A-League was what the Club faced last campaign and nothing has changed for Tony Popovic and his men this time around.
 
We will feature in Group H which includes former J-League champions Kashima Antlers, former K-League champions FC Seoul and the reigning Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
 
While the team may not be familiar to many in Australia, we’re in for a tough opening to their campaign when the travel to meet Kashima who are Japan’s most successful club.
 
Since formation of the J-League in 1993 the Antlers have claimed seven titles including a hat-trick in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as well as amassing 16 major domestic titles with both achievements the current record in Japan.
 
In 2000 the Antlers became the only club in Japanese footballing history to achieve the treble by claiming the J-League, League Cup and Emperor’s Cup in the same year.
 
The team has a mix of experienced and up and coming players and is led by former Japanese footballer of the year and captain Mitsuo Ogasawara.
 
FC Seoul are a more known quantity as we brushed past them 2-0 in the semi-final on the way to the title last time around thanks to goals from Mateo Poljak and Shannon Cole at Parramatta Stadium.
 
Seoul come to the tournament as one of eight qualifying play-off entrants after downing Vietnamese club Hanoi T&T FC to gain access to Group H earlier this month.
 
However the Lucky Goldstars are not to be underestimated as after formation in 1983 Seoul have gone on to become one of the most successful clubs in K-League history taking out the title five times and finishing runners-up in the 2013 Champions League to fellow group mates Guangzhou Evergrande.
 
The current Chinese Super League title holders Guangzhou are also a familiar opponent to those in the stands after we beat the Southern China Tigers to book our spot in the semi-final last time around.
 
In recent years Evergrande have been almost untouchable in their domestic league with their 2014 Super League title making them the first club in the league’s history to secure four in a row.
 
have recently had a fantastic opportunity to scout their rivals with many of Gaungzhou’s superstars including Zheng Zhi and Gao Lin spending time in Australia for the AFC Asian Cup.
 
We kick-off our campaign against Kashima Antlers tomorrow 25 February at Kashima Soccer Stadium (live on Fox Sports 505 from 9pm) with our first home match coming against Gaungzhou Evergrande at Parramatta Stadium on 4 March.
 
Tickets and 3 Match Packs are available by clicking here.