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Preview: AFC Champions League Matchday 1

The group stages of the AFC Champions League officially get underway this week with all four K League clubs in action and looking to get off to a good start. For a guide on who is playing who and how our columnists think they will fair, your comprehensive guide to Matchday 1 of the 2018 AFC Champions League east.
(Image via Suwon Bluewings)
In 2017 K League teams endured a tough time in the AFC Champions League with all but one, namely Jeju United, falling at the first hurdle and failing to make it out of the group stage. FC Seoul, Suwon Bluewings and Ulsan Hyundai managed just six victories between them whilst Jeju United collapsed in Saitama, surrendering a 2-0 aggregate lead to bow out unceremoniously and rather contentiously. But, after a busy transfer window for Suwon Bluewings, Ulsan Hyundai, Jeju United, and the the returning Jeonbuk Hyundai, the Korean contingent will be looking to regain their footing in the latter stages of the ACL once again in 2018.

A full run down of all the K League clubs' group stage fixtures can be found here: Guide to the ACL Group Stages.

Tuesday 13th February 2018

Melbourne Victory (AUS) Vs Ulsan Hyundai 17:30 (Group F)

FA Cup winners Ulsan Hyundai make the long trip to Melbourne, Australia for their first group game of the campaign. Last season Kim Dohoon's side failed to make their way out of the group stage having won just two, drawing one and losing three and so will be looking for vast improvement in 2018. Despite failing to make it to the knockout stages, both of the Horangi's group stage victories were against Australian opposition, having emphatically dispatched Brisbane Roar with 6-0 win at home and a 3-2 win in Brisbane. Ulsan and Melbourne have never met before but the Koreans have a decent record against Australian opposition. In eight matches Ulsan have won four, drawn one and lost three and haven't lost in Australia since 2009 following a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle Jets. Where as Tuesday's game will be Ulsan's first of the season, the A-League season is in full swing with Melbourne Victory sitting in 5th place, 21 points adrift of league leaders Sydney FC. Elsewhere in Group F, Kawasaki Frontale host Shanghai SIPG.


To preview the game, our columnist Daniel Croydon chatted with For Vuck's Sake's Dave Srhoj here.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Vs Kashiwa Reysol (JPN) 19:30 (Group E)

Following a one year absence, 2016 Champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors mark their return to continental competition with a home fixture against Japanese outfit Kashiwa Reysol. Reysol, who will have former Green Warrior Kim Bokyung making his return to Jeonju Castle for the first time following the former Cardiff City midfielders transfer last year, finished fourth in J.League 1 last season. These two sides last met in 2015 with the J1 outfit proving too stern of a test for Jeonbuk; a 0-0 draw at home on the opening matchday preceded a 3-2 defeat in Kashiwa. Since 2006, in six attempts, Jeonbuk have failed to beat Reysol having lost five and drawn one. In fact, against Japanese opposition, Jeonbuk's record doesn't make for pleasant reading having won just seven in 24, drawing four and losing 13. At home, however, Jeonbuk have five victories and three draws to their name against Japanese opposition. Elsewhere in Group E, Hong Kong side Kitchee travel to China to face Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjin.



To preview the game, our columnist Matthew Binns chatted with JSoccer Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Alan Gibson here.

Wednesday 14th February 2018

Sydney FC (AUS) Vs Suwon Samsung Bluewings 17:30

After a 5-1 demolition of Vietnemse side Thanh Hoa at a very snowy Big Bird in a qualification playoff, Seo Jungwon's Suwon Bluewings side, complete with a new and potent-looking attack, head to Sydney to take on A-League league leaders Sydney FC. After 20 games of the A-League season, Sydney find themselves 12 points clear at the top with a league title seemingly a mere formality at this stage and so the two-times A-League champions will prove to be a stern test for Suwon. In the ACL, these two sides have met twice before, having locked horns during the group stages of the 2011 campaign. At home Suwon Bluewings were the victors thanks to a 3-1 win, for the return fixture the sides played out a 0-0 stalemate in Sydney. Suwon's record against Australian teams is encouraging having lost just once, a 1-0 home defeat to Central Coast Mariners in 2013. From eight fixtures against Australian sides, Bluewings have won two, drawn five and lost just once. Elsewhere in Group H, J.League Champions Kashima Antlers host Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.



To Preview the game, our columnist Scott Whitelock  chatted with SFCU.com.au writer Grant Muir here.

Jeju United Vs Cerezo Osaka (JPN) 19:45 Group G

The purveyors of "Tangerine Taka" Jeju United welcome J.League 1 outfit Cerezo Osaka to the orange isle for matchday one. Jeju were the only K League team to make it to the knockout stages in 2017 and will be determined to go one better this term. United are relatively inexperienced in Asian continental competition, however, having only competed in Asia's premier club competition twice previous . Rather ironically, Jeju's Japanese connection in the ACL group stages is exclusive to just teams from Osaka. In 2011, United won 2-1 at home to Gamba Osaka but lost 2-1 away from homw. Last year, Jeju also faced Gamba Osaka in the group stages, winning both games thanks to a 4-1 victory in Osaka and a 2-0 home triumph. Wednesday will be the first time Jeju will face Gamba Osaka's cross town neighbours Cerezo Osaka. In the knockout stages last year, Jeju recorded a 2-0 win over eventual winners Urawa Reds before losing 3-0 in the return leg in Saitama to give Jeju a record of won four and lost two from six games against Japanese teams. At home, Jeju are unbeaten against Japanese opposition. Elsewhere in Group G, CSL Champions Guangzhou Evergrande host Thai League 1 Champions Buriram United.




To preview the game our columnist Branko Belan chatted with Japanese football pundit and photographer for Football Tribe Dan Orlowitz here.

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