Tuesday 24 January 2017, 05:47

Asia’s aspirants primed for another big year

Kashima Antlers’ stunning run to the final of the 2016 FIFA Cup World Cup demonstrated the quality of club football in Asia. Now, little more than a month on from Japan 2016, the region’s elite will have another opportunity to write their own new chapter on the continental and global stage.

The 2017 edition of the AFC Champions League will commence on Tuesday, with a ticket to the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates awaiting the victor.

It begins with a historic first appearance of a Philippines club in the AFC Champions League as Global FC host Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in Manila, in a Preliminary Stage Round 1 match on Tuesday.

The winner will face Australia’s Brisbane Roar in a Preliminary Stage 2 fixture. The successful team from that tie will then meet Shanghai Shenhua in the competition’s play-off phase, with a spot in Group E up for grabs.

The second round of the Preliminary Stage commence on Wednesday with Hong Kong’s Kitchee playing host to Vietnam’s Hanoi FC (formerly Hanoi T&T) at the Hong Kong Stadium.

Preliminary Stage 2 matches continue next week with nine teams from the East and West Zones participating. The winners of the six Preliminary Stage 2 matches will then progress to the play-offs, before the group stage commences on February 20.

The winner of the AFC Champions League will represent Asia in the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup.