AFC Champions League

United City FC drawn vs top Japan, China clubs in Champions League debut

Beatrice Go
United City FC drawn vs top Japan, China clubs in Champions League debut

MUCH-AWAITED DEBUT. United City FC makes history with its first AFC Champions League group stage appearance.

Photo courtesy of the Philippine Football Federation

United City FC will meet J1 League champion Kawasaki Frontale and Chinese Super League runner-up Guangzhou in its first AFC Champions League group stage stint

Reigning Philippines Football League (PFL) champion United City FC is in for a daunting AFC Champions League debut as it faces Asia’s top football clubs.

Southeast Asia’s top football club is bunched together with 2020 J1 League champion Kawasaki Frontale and 2020 Chinese Super League runner-up Guangzhou Evergrande in Group I of Asia’s top flight club tournament.

Kawasaki, which recently copped its maiden Emperor’s Cup title over Gamba Osaka at the start of the year, is led by Japan 2018 World Cup midfielder Ryota Oshima and young guns Kaoru Mitoma and Ao Tanaka.

Since manager Toru Oniki took over as head coach in 2017, he has led the club then-known as Japan football’s “silver collector” to 3 top flight league titles, as well as one title each from the Levain Cup (2019), Super Cup (2019) and Emperor’s Cup (2020).

Guangzhou, on the other hand, has been a powerhouse in the Chinese Super League thanks to the lineage of foreign managers that were at helm since 2010.

Before assuming the head coach post for the China national football team in 2016, Italian Marcello Lippi led Guangzhou to the 2013 AFC Champions League title and a four-peat in the Super League.

Brazilian Luis Felipe Scolari made the most impact with a Champions League title right in his first year managing the team in 2015 and 6 major local football titles.

Current coach Fabio Cannavaro took over the club after Lippi for a year in the 2014-2015 season, and returned to top managerial post in 2017.

But the Italian has only won 2 Super League titles and the 2018 Chinese FA Super Cup trophy with the team.

The South China Tigers are reinforced by Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, who is listed as their third captain.

Paulinho, formerly part of Tottenham and Barcelona, was vital in Brazil’s 2018 World Cup stint as he scored in the country’s 2-0 win over Serbia to seal a berth in the knockout stages.

PFL runner-up Kaya-Iloilo, on the other hand, is drawn together in the ASEAN Zone’s Group I with Myanmar’s Shan United or Ayeyawady United, Terengganu FC of Malaysia, and Geylang International FC of Singapore.

On Tuesday, January 26, AFC announced that both the Champions League and the cup tournament will played in centralized venues, which have not been decided on.

United City FC will see action from April 21 to May 7, while Kaya-Iloilo will kick off their campaign on June 22 to 28. –

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.