A look at Brisbane’s 2017 Champions League GroupPosted: February 9, 2017
Last night Brisbane Roar secured their spot in the 2017 AFC Champions League Group Stage with a 2-0 win away to Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua. First half goals from Brandon Borrello and Tommy Oar were more than enough see off the mega rich Chinese side, you can see the highlights here.
Looking ahead now, Brisbane’s win sees them enter Group E along with 2016 Japanese double winner Kashima Antlers, current Thai Premier League winner Muanthong United and Korean side Ulsan Hyundai, who won their own playoff against Hong Kong side Kitchee earlier in the week.
The headline team in the Group is undoubtedly Kashima Antlers, with the clashes against the 8 time J-League Champions set to be the highlight of the Group Stage for Brisbane. The Antlers, who’ve played against A-League opposition in the form of Adelaide United -2008- and Western Sydney Wanderers -2015- previously, figure to be a formidable opponent and the clear favourites to top this group.
For the first time, Brisbane will face a Thai side in the Group Stage with Thai Champion Muanthong United winding up in the group. Muanthong United. Back in 2015, Melbourne Victory defeated Muanthong 2-1 in a play-off game, the only time the Thai Champions have faced an Australian side.
Ulsan’s place in the draw is an interesting story in itself, with the 2016 4th placed K-League replacing 2016 K-League and Champions League winner Jeonbuk Hyundai who were expelled due to a bribery scandal. While both Muanthong and Kashima are new opponents for the Roar, Brisbane have some history with Ulsan as the two sides met in Brisbane’s first assault on the ACL back in 2012.
A Nick Fitzgerald strike earned Brisbane a point when the two sides met in South Korea, before the Koreans travelled to Brisbane and ran out 2-1 winners in the days preceding the 2012 Grand Final against Perth Glory.
Brisbane’s third group stage kicks off in just 12 days time as Brisbane Roar play host to Thai Champion Muanthong United on Tuesday February 12. Following that Brisbane have back to back road trips away to Ulsan Hyundai and Kashima Antlers on February 28 and March 14 respectively.
The return clash at home against Kashima will be on Wednesday April 12 before a Matchday 5 trip to Muanthong United on April 26. The Group Stage concludes on Wednesday May 10 against Ulsan Hyundai, as Dimitri Petratos likely makes a return to Brisbane.
All up between the Group Stage games and the remainder of the A-League, Brisbane now have 15 games over the next 91 days, starting on Saturday against Melbourne City and concluding against Ulsan on May 10th. That number could grow to possibly 18 games depending on the extent of Brisbane’s involvement in the A-League Finals series. Here’s the breakdown of Brisbane’s upcoming schedule.
It seems like the majority of Brisbane’s upcoming midweek games are highly manageable, starting with the first home game against Muanthong. Having the A-League split round in the middle of March is ideal for Brisbane, allowing John Aloisi side an 11 day break to prepare for the game in Kashima.
The one set of games which will surely need to be adjusted somewhat is the games against Wellington at home on Saturday February 25, or the game in South Korea against Ulsan on the 28th. While it’s not an impossible ask, the transit from Brisbane to Ulsan could be difficult.
The other potential conflicts are the upcoming concert on March 13th, and the rumoured Boxing Bout on April 23rd, both of which however are unlikely to cause massive disruption for Brisbane’s upcoming schedule.
The concert on Monday March 13 is the night before Brisbane’s away game in Japan, with no games of any football code scheduled at Suncorp Stadium until the end of the month which hopefully will see the playing surface recover.
The boxing bout in April is set for the opening weekend of the finals, should have negligible impact on the Roar. Assuming Brisbane do get a home final, it would be either the Friday of week one, or the Sunday of week 2 given the fact that Brisbane travel to Thailand during the first two weeks of the finals, giving the playing surface plenty of recovery time.
Focusing on the group once again however and there’s little doubt that this time around the group is much more manageable than in the two previous campaigns. While there are potential clashes in the finals series upcoming, on the whole the fixture schedule has been kind to the Roar and they stand a good chance of qualifying from the Group Stage for the first time.