Poor performances in the Asian Champions League has seen Australia lose one automatic entry – amplifying the significance of this year’s edition.
Melbourne Victory travels to Japan to take on Kashima Antlers – who won the tournament in 2018 – for a spot in the Group Stage alongside fellow A-League representatives Sydney FC and Perth Glory.
Australia’s fear of losing one of its automatic spots in the tournament was realised last year, with an additional entry given to Thailand for the 2021 tournament – meaning two A-League sides will have to qualify via the play-offs next year.
Perth Glory enters its maiden Champions League campaign in 2020, while Sydney FC will attempt to rectify its unsuccessful spell in the tournament – having only advanced out of the group stage once back in 2016.
“We’ve done pretty well in the last two years in terms of our performances in Champions League,” Sydney FC midfielder Paulo Retre told FNR.
“Over the last two years [we got] a few wins and a couple of good away draws, but we’re looking forward to playing a few good home games and trying to best to win some home games and try our best to get out of the group stage.
“In terms of goals we’ve set by the players and staff, our goal is to get out of the group stage we know we’ve done well in the past in terms of our performances but hasn’t been backed up with results. I think we should make it a priority to do well.”
The Sky Blues have been placed into Group H alongside Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and J1 Champions Yokohama F. Marinos – coached by Ange Postecoglou, while Perth Glory meets reigning cup holders Ulsan Hyundai and Shanghai Shenhua.
Melbourne Victory, meanwhile, picked up a confidence boosting win against Bali United as they look towards qualifying for their eighth Champions League campaign, with fans leaving in high spirits after livewire Elvis Kamsoba broke his duck in front goal.
“I don’t even know how to feel anymore, it’s been that long,” he joked post game.
“I didn’t put pressure on myself anymore because people were always telling me since last year, for me I just lost everything [and thought] if I score, I score and it finally came tonight.”