Draw sets Marinos, Frontale, Urawa and Ventforet’s AFC Champions League paths

Draw sets Marinos, Frontale, Urawa and Ventforet’s AFC Champions League paths

The draw for the AFC Champions League group stage was conducted on Thursday, setting the stage for Yokohama F·Marinos, Kawasaki Frontale, Urawa Reds and Ventforet Kofu’s pursuit of continental glory.

Marinos, who qualified for the competition as last year’s Meiji Yasuda J1 League winners, were drawn into Group G. They have been grouped with China’s Shandong Taishan, Philippines’ Kaya-Iloilo and South Korea’s Incheon United.

Frontale, runners up in J1 last season, will compete in Group I. They will play South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim and Thailand’s BG Pathum United.

Urawa booked their place in this year’s competition as the reigning Asian champions, having won the tournament last season for a Japanese record third time. They are in Group J with China’s Wuhan Three Towns, South Korea’s Pohang Steelers and Vietnam’s Hanoi FC.

Ventforet are the surprise Japanese in the Champions League, having qualified with their stunning Emperor’s Cup title. The J2 side was drawn into Group H with Thailand’s Buriram United, Australia’s Melbourne City and China’s Zhejiang.

The group stage will begin on September 18 and see teams play each team in their group home and away over six matchdays, concluding on December 13. The group winners will advance to the knockout stages, along with the top second place finishers.

Urawa enter the tournament as the most successful Japanese club in the history of Asian competition and second-most successful team on the continent. They are in search of a fourth Champions League crown, which would tie them for the most in all of Asia.

Marinos are two-time Cup Winners’ Cup champions, but are trying to make the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time. Frontale will be trying to make their first-ever semi-finals in Asian competition, while this is Ventforet’s first foray into a continental tournament.