MARCELLO Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande was handed a tough AFC Champions League draw against two former winners yesterday, complicating its bid to end China's long Asian trophy drought.
The Chinese champion, marshalled by its World Cup-winning Italian coach, landed in a difficult Group F with South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, winners in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
The harsh draw is a setback for ambitious Guangzhou, which reached the quarterfinals on debut this year and is attempting to become China's first Asian champion since Liaoning won the former Asian Club Championship in 1990.
"Lippi was very disappointed that we didn't make it as far as the semifinals, but next year we will prepare according to the AFC Champions League schedule and we will give the competition more priority," Guangzhou's Zheng Zhi said before the draw yesterday.
"We accomplished the goals we established at the beginning of this year because the main focus for us was the AFC Champions League since it was the first year that Guangzhou Evergrande had played in the competition."
Newly crowned J-League winner Sanfrecce Hiroshima was pitted against Beijing Guo'an, Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor and South Korean side Pohang Steelers, the 2009 champion, in Group G.
And Australia's Central Coast Mariners will face China's Guizhou Renhe, Suwon Bluewings of South Korea and the eventual winner of Japan's Emperor's Cup, in Group H.
A-League champion Brisbane Roar, forced to go through qualifying after Australia was reduced to just one automatic spot, will play Thailand's Buriram United on February 9 for a place in Group E.
South Korea's K-League winner FC Seoul, Vegalta Sendai of Japan and Jiangsu Sainty, which was runner-up to Guangzhou in the Chinese Super League, await the playoff winners.