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ACL Group Stage Draw: Jeju United

Jeju United learned of their Asian Champions League group stage opponents for the 2018 season and have been drawn to play against the Chinese Super League Champions, Japan's Emperor's Cup winners as well as the Champions of Thailand .
(Image via Jeju United)

ICYMI: Ryan Walters and Paul Neat covered the draw live from the K League United studio:

On Wednesday at the Asian Football Confederation's Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the draw for the group stages of the 2018 AFC Champions League (ACL) was made. K League Runners Up Jeju United went straight into the draw for group stages and were drawn into Group G.

Group G

Guangzhou Evergrande (China)
Japan's Emperor's Cup Winners (TBC) (Japan)
Jeju United (South Korea)
Buriram United (Thailand)


Wednesday 14th February 2018 Emperor's Cup Winners (TBC) (H)
Wednesday 21st February 2018 Buriram United (A)
Tuesday 6th March 2018 Guangzhou Evergrande (A)
Wednesday 14th March 2018 Guangzhou Evergrande (H)
Wednesday 3rd April 2018 Buriram United (H)
Tuesday 17th April 2018 Emperor's Cup Winners (TBC (A)


Guwangzhou Evergrande enter as the Champions of the Chinese Super League and were crowned as such under the stewardship of former Brazil National Team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari. Scolari departed in November after a trophy-laden spell which included an ACL triumph in 2015. Legendary Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro returned to the club as his replacement; he departed fellow CSL side and ACL playoff hopefuls Tianjin Quanjin to once again take up his place in the dugout at Tianhee Stadium. Guangzhou have a rich history in the competition having lifted the ACL trophy on two occasions, the first in 2013 under Marcello Lippi beating FC Seoul on away goals, and a second title two years later.  Last season Evergrande made it to the quarter finals but were beaten by CSL rivals Shanghai SIPG. 

Japan's Emperor's Cup is still at its semi-final stage with the last four teams set to battle it out for a place in the final on Saturday 23rd December, with the final itself not set to take place until New Year's Day. One of Cezero Osaka, Vissel Kobe, Kashiwa Reysol and Yokohama F. Marinos could make their way into Group G.

Cerezo Osaka, 3rd in the J1 League, last appeared in the ACL in 2014 when they made it to the Round of 16, losing to Guangzhou Evergrande. Cerezo Osaka came up against Pohang Steelers that year, losing 2-0 at home and drawing 1-1 away at the Steelyard. In 2011 Cerezo Osaka played Jeonbuk Hyundai in the group stages as well as the quarter finals, bowing our to the eventual runners up for what was their best finish in Asian continental competition.

Should Vissel Kobe, who finished 9th in J1 League in 2017, lift the Emperor's Cup and make it to the ACL it will be the Rakuten-owned club's first foray into continental football. Former Ulsan Hyundai and current Korea National Team stopper Kim Seunggyu has made over 30 appearances in his first season with Vissel Kobe this season and could be in line for a return to this native Korea should his current side secure their first ever domestic trophy.

Kashiwa Reysol, however, do have ACL experience having made it out of the round of 16 in 2012, the semi-finals a year later, and the quarter-finals in 2015. Kim Bokyung recently made the switch from K League to J League having transferred from Jeonbuk Hyundai to Kashiwa Reysol over the summer. Their last appearance in the ACL saw Kashiwa Reysol drawn into Group E with Jeonbuk in 2015 where they drew 0-0 at Jeonju World Cup Stadium and won 3-2 at home. Kashiwa Reysol finished the domestic season in 4th place in J1 League.

Yokohama F. Marinos finished in 5th in J1 League in 2017 and haven't appeared in the ACL since 2014 where they were also pitted against Jeonbuk. Marinos beat Jeonbuk 2-1 at home that year but lost 3-0 away. Yokohama have made it into the group stages on three occasions but have never advanced into the knockout rounds.

Thai League T1 Champions Buriram United were last in the ACL in 2016 where the four times Thai title winners faced FC Seoul in the group stage. Buriram lost 6-0 at home to a rampant FC Seoul before a narrow 2-1 defeat at Sangnam in the return fixture. The 2018 campaign will be Bururam's sixth appearance in the ACL; their best showing was in 2013 when they reached the quarter finals.

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