Buriram to face Pohang, Shandong in ACL group stage

Thailand’s Buriram United will face South Korean, Chinese and Japanese opposition in the 2014 AFC Champions League after being put in Group E in Tuesday’s draw.

The Thunder Castle, who raised plenty of eyebrows by reaching the quarter-finals of this year’s edition before being eliminated by Esteghlal, were pitted against K-League champions Pohng Steelers, Chinese FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng Taishan and a yet-to-be determined J.League side.

The reason their Japanese opponents have yet to be finalised is because the winners of the Emperor’s Cup are yet to be crowned but the team will be Cerezo Osaka, if Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Yokohama F. Marinos or Kawasaki Frontale win it, or the latter otherwise.

Although Buriram’s passage to the Round of 16 is by no means an easy one, they will take heart in the fact that they managed to do just that this year despite being in a group consisting of FC Seoul, Jiangsu Sainty and Vegalta Sendai.

Fellow Thai Premier League outfits Muangthong United and Chonburi are both also in the running to qualify for the group stages and will enter the competition and the second qualifying playoff stage.

Muangthong will meet the winner of the tie between India’s Pune and Vietnamese side Hanoi T&T, while the Sharks will face off against the victor of the match between S.League champions Tampines Rovers and South China of Hong Kong.

The winners of those playoffs will then vie with China’s Beijing Guoan and A-League giants Melbourne Victory for a place in the competition proper.

2014 AFC Champions League Group Stage Draw

Group A: Esteghlal (IRN), Al Rayyan (QAT), Al Jazira (UAE), Al Shabab (KSA)

Group B: Al Fateh (KSA), Foolad (IRN), Bunyodkor (UZB), W3.1 Playoff Winner

Group C: Al Ain (UAE), Al Ittihad (KSA), Tractor Sazi (IRN), W3.2 Playoff Winner

Group D: Al Sadd (QAT), Al Ahli (UAE), Al Hilal (KSA), Sepahan (IRN)

Group E: Pohang Steelers (KOR), Buriram United (THA), Shandong Luneng Taishan (CHN), Japan’s fourth representative

Group F: Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN), Central Coast Mariners (AUS), FC Seoul (KOR), E3.1 Playoff Winner

Group G: Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), Japan’s second representative, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, E3.2 Playoff Winner

Group H: Western Sydney Wanderers (AUS), Guizhou Renhe (CHN), Japan’s third representative, Ulsan Hyundai (KOR)

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