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United Clark joins Thai, Aussie league champs for ACL group stage

United Clark begins life without Bienve Marañon in the AFC Champions League. PFL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Reigning PFL champion United Clark has been drawn into an all-champion group for the group stages of the AFC Champions League.

Following the result of the group draw from the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, the Filipino side will be part of Group G, which also has BG Pathum United, Jeonnam, and Melbourne in it.

United Clark, which was designated as the Philippine representative following the cancellation of the PFL season last year, will be fielding in a significantly rejigged roster following the departure of some key players including Bienve Marañon.

BG Pathum, the reigning Thai League 1 champion, finds itself battling a PFL club in the Champions League for the second straight year.

Meanwhile, Melbourne, which won last season's A-League championship, will be making its ACL debut.

Completing Group G is Jeonnam, the only second division team in the field but pulled off a huge shocker by winning the Korean FA Cup last year.

Jeonnam stunned Daegu in the championship series through a 4-3 road win in the second leg that canceled out the latter's 1-0 win in Game 1 as the former clinched the title on away goals.

Daegu will have to beat Buriram in a qualifying match for the right to join Shandong, Urawa, and newcomers Lion City Sailors in Group F.

On the other hand, Kaya Iloilo, should it survive its own qualifying phase, will end up in Group H, joining Jeonbuk, Yokohama, and Hoang Anh Gia Lai.

Kaya Iloilo, last year's Copa Paulino Alcantara champion, first needs to beat an A-League club on March 8 to get a chance at defeating Changchun the following week.

Kaya Iloilo, either way, will be seeing action in continental football play as the club has a fallback in the AFC Cup.

The group draw for the said tournament is scheduled later Monday.

Like last year, both the AFC club events will be played in centralized venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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