The A-League’s representatives in this year’s Asian Champions League are facing a mid-year fixture pile-up after their matches in the continental competition were postponed.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Thursday it had postponed the playoffs and group stage fixtures for this year’s competition until June-July due to ongoing travel and border restrictions with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It creates a headache for Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City given the A-League finals are set to be played some time in June, while Australia’s four remaining World Cup Group B qualifiers are also scheduled to be played in a limited window during that month.
Under the revisions Roar and City would have to play two sudden-death playoff fixtures each in Thailand, before then facing six more matches in the group stages in the south-east Asian nation.
🚨 #ACL2021 group stage draw results🚨
The toughest group is _______ pic.twitter.com/iCUxI4AbRA
— #ACL2021 (@TheAFCCL) January 27, 2021
Roar has been drawn to face Filipino club Kaya-Iloilo in their preliminary-round tie, with the winner then facing Aaron Mooy’s Chinese powerhouse Shanghai Port for a spot in Group F.
City will play Myanmar’s Shan United in its preliminary fixture, with the winner of that match to face Japan’s Cerezo Osaka for a spot in Group J.
Sydney FC has been drawn in Group H along with K-League champions Jeonbuk, J-League powerhouse Gamba Osaka and Singapore’s Tampine Rovers.
⚡🔙 Muriqui, Barrios, Duke & Ryan…
— #ACL2021 (@TheAFCCL) March 11, 2021
A host nation for the Group H fixtures hasn’t been determined, with the AFC saying that and the host of Group I as well as the dates of the matches will be announced “in due course”.
The West Zone matches have a more defined schedule with matches to be played from April 14-30 in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India.
Last year’s Asian Champions League was completed in Qatar with Sydney, Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory all playing matches in the Middle East nation.
South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai defeated Persepolis from Iran in the final.