Tomorrow will be the highly anticipated draw for the 2015 Asian Champions League’s (ACL) play off and group stage. After a reform package this year, Hong Kong champion Kitchee can skip the first play-off round and will only step in for the 2nd round to fight for its first appearance in Asia’s highest inter-club competition. However, it will be a VERY difficult task for the HK side…
Potential opponents in the 2nd round include Guangzhou R&F (China), Hanoi T&T (Vietnam), Chonburi FC (Thailand), Bangkok Glass (Thailand), PERSIB Bandung (Indonesia), Bengaluru FC (India), Johor Darul Takzim (Malaysia), Warriors F.C. (Singapore) and Yadanarbon (Myanmar), not even to speak of calibres such as Beijing Guoan (China), FC Seoul (South Korea) and Central Coast Mariners (Australia) that will join in round 3. In the likely case that Kitchee won’t qualify to the group stage, they will nevertheless automatically qualify for the 2015 AFC Cup, in which they proceeded up to the semi-finals this year!
Unfortunately, it seems that Kitchee has very low chances for getting even one home game during the ACL play-offs, as this single-leg competition will be automatically hosted by the club that belongs to the higher-ranked football association (and most regional associations are higher ranked than HKFA). Another very questionable regulations that reveals a lopsided hierarchy, which marginalizes smaller football nations and strips them off any opportunities to promote the game to a wider audience. However, we keep our fingers crossed for a potential derby in Guangzhou’s Yuexiushan Stadium. How amazing that would be!