The 2019 AFC Champions League gets underway this week with both Hyundai A-League clubs – Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC – with home matches to begin the group stage.
Last season’s Hyundai A-League champions are first-up on Tuesday night as they take on Korean outfit Daegu at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
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Kevin Muscat’s men head into this clash in patchy form, having failed to win any of their last four matches in the Hyundai A-League.
But they are desperate to make a real go of the ACL this year and will be targeting a quick start against a Daegu side which only began their domestic season last weekend, a 1-1 draw against Jeonbuk.
In a boost for Victory, Swedish striker Ola Toivonen appears to have shrugged off the illness that kept him out of Saturday night’s loss to Newcastle Jets.
Japanese legend Keisuke Honda is set to make his first-ever appearance in the ACL, while Kiwi international Kosta Barbarouses needs one goal to join Muscat and Besart Berisha as Victory's all-time leading scorers in the competition.
Meanwhile, 24 hours after Victory are in action it’s Sydney FC who take centre-stage in their clash against Ulsan Hyundai at Jubilee Stadium.
Like Victory, the Sky Blues were bundled out in the group stages in 2018 and they are determined to put things right.
Home form was the main issue for Sydney FC last year, failing to win any of the three games in front of their home fans.
But Steve Corica appears to have his side peaking at the right time, with back-to-back wins in the Hyundai A-League heading into this one.
Iranian star Reza Ghoochannejhad is sure to be confident after nabbing his first goal for the club last Friday night, while they will look to build their success on a water-tight defence led by the experienced Alex Wilkinson.
Ulsan are previous winners of the ACL (back in 2012) and came through the playoffs to book their spot in this year’s edition, meaning they have a few competitive games under their belt.
1. Matthew Acton, 2. Storm Roux, 3. Corey Brown, 4. Keisuke Honda, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Kenny Athiu, 8. Terry Antonis, 9. Kosta Barbarouses,
10. James Troisi, 11. Ola Toivonen, 13. Birkan Kirdar, 14. Thomas Deng, 15. Raul Baena, 16. Josh Hope, 17. James Donachie, 19. Rahmat Akbari, 20. Lawrence Thomas, 21. Carl Valeri, 23. Jai Ingham
1. Andrew Redmayne, 2. Aaron Calver, 3. Ben Warland, 4. Alex Wilkinson, 6. Joshua Brillante, 7. Michael Zullo, 8. Paulo Retre, 9. Adam Le Fondre, 10. Milos Ninkovic, 11. Daniel De Silva, 13. Brandon O'Neill, 14. Alex Brosque, 16. Reza Ghoochannejhad, 17. Anthony Caceres, 18. Jacob Tratt, 20. Alex Cisak, 21. Mitchell Austin, 22. Siem De Jong, 23. Rhyan Grant, 24. Cameron Devlin, 25. Joel King, 27. Jerry Skotadis, 28. Marco Tilio, 30. Tom Heward-Belle, 31. Luke Ivanovic, 32. Jordi Swibel, 33. Liam McGing, 34. Patrick Scibilio, 37. Hamish Lamberton.
What they said
Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat
“It’s exciting to be here in the competition once again.
“We earned the opportunity to be in this competition, we’re really positive about it and we want to kick-off the campaign with a performance worthy of winning the game [on Tuesday] night.
"Naturally there will be a lot of attention on [marquee man Keisuke Honda]. He's part of a group of people that we will put out optimistic and excited about performing really well."
Sydney FC coach Steve Corica
“We are looking forward to a great campaign and the huge challenge of competing against the best of Asian football.
“It’s a difficult task but one we are looking forward to.
“It’s exciting and something different for our players, particularly the younger boys, for whom the experience will one to relish and learn from.”
How to watch
You can watch Victory’s clash against Daegu on Fox Sports 505 with kick-off at 7:30pm AEDT on Tuesday.
Sydney FC’s home match against Ulsan Hyundai is on Wednesday night kicking off at 8pm AEDT, also on Fox Sports 505.
- Be there as Victory takes on Daegu by clicking here.
- Get to Sydney FC’s home clash with Ulsan Hyundai by heading here.