The draw for the group stage of the 2009 AFC Champions League has thrown up some tough challenges for Japanese clubs.
The opening stages of the Champions League are split into regionalised West Asian and East Asian groups, and Nagoya Grampus will have a tough time of things when they make their debut in the competition.
Dragan Stojkovic’s side have been drawn in Group E alongside A-League champions Newcastle Jets, Korean outfit Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i and passionately supported Chinese club Beijing Guoan.
In Group F defending Asian champions Togel Gamba Osaka face a similarly tough task when they come up against K-League runners-up FC Seoul, Chinese giants Shandong Luneng and Sumatra-based Indonesian outfit Sriwijaya FC.
There’s a mouth-watering clash of the giants in Group G, where current J. League champions Kashima Antlers will face off against Korean superclub Suwon Bluewings, with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua also in the mix.
The final place in Group G will go to the winner of a play-off featuring Thai club Provincial Electricity Authority, Singapore Armed Forces and Indonesian side PSMS Medan, with the fixtures taking place in late February.
Kawasaki Frontale will fancy their chances of making it out of Group H, where they face Australian side Central Coast Mariners, Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers and Chinese club Tianjin Teda.
The group winners and runners-up will both advance to the Round of 16, with the tournament kicking off on March 10.
The full draw is as follows:
Group A: Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan), Al Ahli (United Arab Emirates), Saba Battery (Iran).
Group B: Persepolis (Iran), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia), Al Gharafa (Qatar), To Be Confirmed
Group C: Al Jazira (UAE), Esteghlal (IR Iran), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Umm Salal (Qatar).
Group D: Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al Shabab (UAE), Sepahan (Iran), Al Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia)
Group E: Ulsan Hyundai (Korea Republic), Newcastle Jets (Australia), Beijing Guoan (China), Nagoya Grampus (Japan)
Group F: Gamba Osaka (Japan), FC Seoul (Korea Republic), Sriwijaya (Indonesia), Shandong Luneng (China)
Group G: Shanghai Shenhua (China), Kashima Antlers (Japan), Suwon Bluewings (Korea Republic), To Be Confirmed
Group H: Central Coast Mariners (Australia), Tianjin Teda (China), Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Pohang Steelers (Korea).
The usually reserved Moore was moved to rubbish Bleiberg’s comments and said he knew for certain the former Roar boss had spoken to team-mates. Minniecon’s subsequent move suggests Moore was telling the truth.
Palmer and Bleiberg’s continued boastful comments seem set to make the Gold Coast the team most rival sides will take aim at when the new season kicks off this coming August.
They previously announced the signings of Wellington’s prolific striker Shane Smeltz and Newcastle’s Adam Griffiths, plunging those clubs’ playoff challenges into crisis.
Another three currently contracted A-League players have made the similar journey to the tourist strip.