United City FC grouped with Chinese, Japanese top clubs in AFC Champions League debut

Originally published by CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) – Defending Philippines Football League titlist United City FC will face a tough opposition in its Asian Football Confederation Champions League debut in April.

In a draw held on Wednesday, United City was selected in Group I with Japan League champion Kawasaki Frontale and Chinese Super League runner-up Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao for the group stage matches. South Korean club Daegu FC and Thai football team Chiangrai United will contest the bracket's fourth member in a preliminary match on April 14.

Kawasaki ruled the 2020 J1 League and bagged home the Emperor's Cup title after defeating Gamba Osaka on New Year's Day. The Japanese club is led by national team standout Ryota Oshima, who was on the squad that played in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Guangzhou is a dominant force in the Chinese Super League, winning the title from 2010-2017 and 2019. The Fabio Cannavaro-mentored club lost against Jiangsu Suning with a 1-2 aggregate score during the last season. The club also topped the 2013 AFC Champions League under the helm of veteran Italian coach Marcelino Lippi, who coached the Chinese national team from 2016-2019.

United City FC is expected to lean on veteran national player Stephan Schröck, naturalization candidate Bienvenido Marañón, Mike Ott, Takashi Odawara, Miguel Clarino, and Pocholo Bugas.

Meanwhile, PFL runner-up Kaya-Iloilo can be the second Filipino club to play in the 2021 AFC Champions League if it will win its preliminary games. Kaya needs to beat Australia's Brisbane Roar on April 7 to progress in the second round of the preliminaries. Chinese club Beijing Guoan will face the winner of the Kaya-Brisbane tussle on April 14 to determine which club will advance in the 2021 AFC Champions League group stage.

The 2021 AFC Champions League group stage matches are set from April 21 to May 7 in venues yet to be decided.

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