Holders Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao have no fears about facing Sydney FC in the group stages of the AFC Champions League, says president Liu Yongzhou.
Guangzhou lifted the trophy for the second time in the space of three seasons when they triumphed 1-0 on aggregate against UAE outfit Al-Ahli last term.
This time around they were drawn against last season’s beaten A-League grand finalists Sydney in the regional competition for the first time and, while Graham Arnold’s side may be an unknown quantity for the Chinese powerhouse, Guangzhou have struggled against Australian opposition in the past in the shape of Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Wanderers beat Guangzhou in the 2014 quarter-finals en route to winning the title, while the two shared a win apiece across their two meetings in the group stages last season.
Liu recognised the growing strength of Australian sides but is optimistic about Guangzhou’s chances, telling the A-League’s official website: “We are not worried about facing Australian teams in the AFC Champions League.
“Australian teams are strong so we will always have to face them, every year. Sydney is a strong team but again, we are not worried about facing this team. You should ask Sydney how they feel about facing the Asian champion.”
Group H will also comprise a team from Japan, and one of Pohang Steelers of South Korea, Hanoi T&T of Vietnam or Kitchee from Hong Kong.
K-League holders Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors are in Group E alongside Jiangsu Sainty of China and Becamex Binh Duong, while A-League champions Melbourne Victory headline a Group G that also includes Suwon Samsung Bluewings (South Korea).