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ACL Group Stage Preview: Suwon Bluewings

Suwon Bluewings secured their place in Group H of the 2018 Asian Champions League on Tuesday night when they overcame Vietnamese side FLC Thanh Hoa 5-1 with a dominant and impressive performance. This will be their 4th straight season of Champions League football but who will the two time winners of the ACL face in the group stage? Here, our Scott Whitelock,  briefly previews the 'group of death' that is Group H. (Picture courtesy of http://fourfourtwo.co.kr)


Shanghai Shenhua FC

Shanghai had a disappointing 2017 only finishing in 11th place in the Chinese Super League and, at one point, even flirted with the idea of relegation. However, their FA Cup final victory over city neighbours, Shanghai SIPG, was enough to seal their entry into the ACL.

They go into this year's edition without Carlos Tevez who controversially brought to an end his spell in China this winter. But Shanghai still have the likes of Obafemi Martins, Fredy Guarin, Giovanni Moreno and the returning Kim Kee-hee to rely upon, which probably makes them slight favourites in the group.

Kashima Antlers

Although they finished 2nd in the regular season table, the Japanese club had a difficult end to 2017 and were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the annual Emperor's Cup. But with the core of the group remaining from the team that took Real Madrid so close in the final of the 2016 Club World Cup, Kashima will have hopes that they can go one step further than their last ACL campaign when they crashed out in the round of 16 to Guangzhou Evergrande.

Sydney FC

Sydney FC head into Group H as the reigning A-League champions and look set to retain that title this year. With the club sitting 9 points comfortably ahead of their rivals in the league, manager Graham Arnold, may have room to maneuver an ambitious bid at the ACL title and become the first Australian team to become champions of Asia since the Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014.

And with Suwon's Matthew Jurman returning home to Sydney the games between these two teams will have an added attraction.

Fixtures

Wednesday 14th February: Sydney FC (A)
Wednesday 21st February: Kashima Antlers (H)
Wednesday 7th March: Shanghai Shenhua FC (H)
Tuesday 13th March: Shanghai Shenhua FC (A)
Tuesday 3rd April: Sydney FC (H)
Wednesday 18th April: Kashima Antlers (A)


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