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December 11, 2019

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Guangzhou gets Suwon, Shenhua draws Ulsan in ACL group stage

Guangzhou Evergrande forward Gao Lin drew his team to face South Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim at the 2020 AFC Champions League group-stage draw held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday.

The fourth team that the Chinese Super League champion will face in Group G is the yet-to-be-decided winner of Japan’s Emperor’s Cup.

“There’s nothing like a good result or a bad result in a draw,” said Gao, who served as the draw ambassador.

“We face different opponents every year,” said the two-time ACL champion with Guangzhou. “No matter who we face, our goal is to win the championship.”

Newly crowned Chinese Football Association Cup champion Shanghai Greenland Shenhua will face South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai FC, champion in 2012; Australian side Perth Glory and a playoff winner in Group F.

The only opponent confirmed for Beijing Guoan is Chiangrai United FC from Thailand, while the other two teams in Group E will be decided by playoffs.

K-League champion Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors — ACL winner in 2006 and 2016 — will play in Group H with Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos, Australia’s Sydney FC. They will likely be joined by Shanghai SIPG from the playoff.

In the West Zone, Saudi Arabia’s al-Hilal, which defeated Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan to lift the 2019 title last month after a runner-up finish in 2014 and 2017, will have Shabab al-Ahli Dubai from the United Arab Emirates and Pakhtakor from Uzbekistan in Group B.

The Saudi giant ended a 19-year wait for its third continental trophy and joined South Korea’s Pohang Steelers as the only three-time Asian champion.

It also became the competition’s first West Asian winner since Qatar’s al-Sadd in 2011, torpedoing a run of victories by clubs from Japan, South Korea, China and Australia.

Persepolis from Iran, which was runner-up in 2018, will take on Qatar’s al-Duhail, al-Taawoun of Saudi Arabia and Sharjah from the UAE in Group C. Fellow Iranians Sepahan meet 2019 semifinalist al-Sadd and Saudi Arabia’s al-Nassr as well as a team from the playoffs in Group D.

Group A will also feature two teams from the playoff rounds as well as al-Wahda of the UAE and Iraq’s al-Shorta.

The 2020 season begins with the preliminary stage in January, with the two-leg final scheduled for November.

The ACL will feature 32 teams in 2020 for the final time, with the tournament set to expand to 40 sides from 2021.


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