As 2014-15 Hong Kong Premier League champion, Kitchee will once again enter the second preliminary round of the 2016 Asian Champions League (ACL) qualifiers. On February 2nd, they will take on the Vietnamese V-League runner-up Hanoi T&T. The winner will eventually proceed to the play-off match against Pohang Steelers from Korea on February 9th, who finished third in last year’s K League Classic. Both ties are played as a single match only, and will be hosted by Vietnam and Korea respectively who are currently on a higher AFC ranking than Hong Kong. In case of a draw, the match will be decided via extra time and eventually penalty shoot-out.
Last year, Kitchee lost 1-4 against the Thai side Chonburi in Bangkok, but eventually had another very successful campaign in the AFC Cup, where they reached the quarter finals.
Until now, no Hong Kong team has ever reached the Asian Champions League, which is the highest tier of Intra-Asian club competitions. However, Kitchee and South China have been among the best East Asian sides in the second tier, the AFC Cup, in recent years.
Hanoi and Pohang Steelers will be both difficult tasks for Kitchee, who nevertheless have secured a ticket for the AFC Cup group stage if they don’t make it into the ACL. As season play-off winner, Hong Kong fans will also definitely see South China in the 2016 AFC Cup.