After finally tasting success in the A-League Men competition, Melbourne City will turn their focus to a new test: making an impact in Asia.
City will kick off their debut Asian Champions League campaign when they take on BG Pathum United in Bangkok on Friday night.
Of the reigning ALM champions’ squad, only Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Scott Jamieson and Scott Galloway have played in the ACL.
But English defender Carl Jenkinson, who previously participated in the European Champions League and Europa League, relished the test to come.
“I’m really excited about it,” Jenkinson said.
“Just the words ‘Champions League’ are appealing to anyone and any player, so I’m really excited to be a part of it.
“It will be a great experience for us football-wise and going to Bangkok as well.”
City will have to overcome some injuries for their group G games against BG Pathum United, Jeonnam Dragons and Filipino outfit United City FC.
Aiden O’Neill suffered a broken metatarsal against Sydney FC and is unlikely to play again this season while playmaker Florin Berenguer is sidelined for four-to-five weeks with a hamstring strain.
Meanwhile Socceroos midfielder Connor Metcalfe tested positive to COVID-19 upon arrival and is currently in hotel isolation in Bangkok.
Galloway is expected to join City’s squad next week after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Despite the setbacks, City will be hoping to end Australia’s recent difficult run of results in Asia.
Tony Popovic’s Western Sydney Wanderers claimed the 2014 title, while Adelaide United reached the final in 2008.
But since the Wanderers’ triumph, no Australian team has gone further than the competition’s round of 16.
Sydney have only made it to that stage once, in 2016, despite their recent national league dominance.
But this year’s campaign, which begins for the Sky Blues in Ho Chi Minh City, could prove a welcome break from a difficult ALM season.
Sydney, who kick off their campaign against South Korean powerhouse Jeonbuk on Saturday night local time, also face Kevin Muscat’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Vietnamese club Hoang Anh Gia Lai in Group H.
City, Sydney and Brisbane withdrew from last year’s ACL due to border restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
ALM CLUB ACL GROUP GAMES (ALL DATES AEST)
GROUP G (Bangkok, Thailand)
* BG Pathum United v Melbourne City, Friday 15 April, 9pm
* Melbourne City v United City, Tuesday 19 April, 12am
* Melbourne City v Jeonnam Dragons, Friday 22 April, 12am
* Jeonnam Dragons v Melbourne City, Sunday 24 April, 9pm
* Melbourne City v BG Pathum United, Wednesday 27 April, 9pm
* United City v Melbourne City, Sunday 1 May, 12am
GROUP H (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
* Jeonbuk v Sydney FC, Sunday 17 April, 12am
* Sydney FC v Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Tuesday 19 April, 9pm
* Sydney FC v Yokohama F. Marinos, Saturday 23 April, 12am
* Yokohama F. Marinos v Sydney FC, Monday 25 April, 9pm
* Sydney FC v Jeonbuk, Friday 29 April, 12am
* Hoang Anh Gia Lai v Sydney FC, Sunday 1 May, 9pm