KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — AFC Cup 2015 champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) want to go ‘all out’ in the competition next year, as it might be their last outing in the region’s second tier tournament.
JDT assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim said with Malaysia most likely to get an automatic slot to first-tier tournament, AFC Champions League (ACL) in 2019, the Southern Tigers want to make this a memorable season.
However, Selangor would replace JDT in the event the Malaysia Cup champions qualified for the 2018 AFC Champions League by defeating Thailand’s Muangthong United in the Preliminary Round 2 on Jan 23, and the Japan League’s third or fourth placed team in the playoff 2 match on Jan 30.
In today’s AFC Cup draw, JDT were drawn in Group H (Asean zone) along with Indonesia’s Persija Jakarta, Vietnam’s Song Lam Nighe An FC and Tampines Rovers or Geylang International of Singapore.
“We cannot take this group lightly, because each team has a high expectation to qualify for the next round, and these are new teams we have never met before, except for Tampines Rovers who we’ve beaten before.
“However, with in-depth preparation and the new players who are coming in, we will go all out because in 2019, we may be competing in the ACL.
“We need to study these teams, especially Persija Jakarta, in terms of their style-of-play and tactics, because we have not faced them before,” he told reporters after the draw held at the AFC House here, today.
JDT is the first and only Malaysian club to have won the AFC Cup when they defeated Tajikistan’s Istiklol FC 1-0 in the 2015 final.
If they qualify for the ACL, JDT would be placed in Group E with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea, Hong Kong’s Kitchee FC, and winner of the East Zone Playoff 4, from either China, Australia, Myanmar or the Philippines.
Ismail said JDT would put up a strong fight to qualify for the first tier tournament, after failing to get through the playoffs in all three attempts since 2015.
“Muangthong United is a strong team, in 2016 we lost in the penalty shootout…This year, we meet again, I hope we are more prepared this time because they are a good team and have played in the ACL in 2017.
“We will begin training on Dec 18, and will soon wrap up player signings. The last import player is expected to join the team soon, before we begin preparing for the ACL playoff,” he said.
In the 2016 season, JDT lost 0-3 to Muangthong United in the penalty shootout after a goalless draw in preliminary round, while in the 2017 season, the four-time Super League champions defeated Bangkok United 5-4 in a penalty shootout after 1-1 draw, but went down 3-0 to Japan’s Gamba Osaka in the playoff.
2018 AFC Champions League Draw
Group A: Al Jazira (UAE), Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA), Tractorsazi Tabriz (IRN), West zone playoff 3 winner.
Group B: Al Duhail SC (QAT), Al Wahda (UAE), PFC Lokomotiv (UZB), West zone playoff 2 winner.
Group C: Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Sadd SC (QAT), Al Wasl (UAE), West zone playoff 4 winner.
Group D: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Esteghlal FC (IRN), Al Rayyan SC (QAT), West zone playoff 1 winner.
Group E: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR), Kitchee SC (HKG), East zone playoff 4 winner, East zone playoff 2 winner.
Group F: Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), Melbourne Victory (AUS), East zone playoff 3 winner.
Group G: Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN), Japan 2nd Club, Jeju United FC (KOR), Buriram United (THA).
Group H: Sydney FC (AUS), Shanghai Shenhua FC (CHN), Kashima Antlers (JPN), East zone playoff 1 winner.
2018 AFC Cup Draw
Group A: Malkiya Club (BAH), Al Jazeera (JOR), Air Force Club (IRQ), West zone playoff winner.
Group B: Al Ahed FC (LIB), Manama Club (BAH), Al Jaish (SYR), Al Zawraa Club (IRQ).
Group C: Al Faisaly/ Al Wehdat (JOR), Al Ansar FC (LIB), Dhofar Club (OMA), Al Wahda (SYR).
Group D: FC Istikol (TJK), Turkmenistan 1st Club, FC Alay (KGZ), Central zone playoff winner.
Group E: Aizawl FC/Mohun Bagan (IND), New Radiant SC (MDV), Bangladesh 1st club, South zone playoff winner.
Group I: 4.25 SC (PRK), Hang Yuen FC (TPE), Benfica Macau (MAC), East zone playoff winner.
Group F: Philippines 1st/3rd Club, Home United (SGP), Shan United/ Yadanarbon (MYA), ASEAN playoff winner.
Group G: Bali United/Madura United (INA), Philippines 2nd club, FLC Thanh Moa/Hanoi FC (VIE), Yangon United (MYA).
Group H: Tampines Rovers/ Geylang International (SGP), Persija Jakarta (INA), JDT/Selangor (MAS), Song Lam Nighe An FC (VIE). — Bernama