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Vietnam, Thailand league runners-up to clash in AFC Champions League preliminary round

Tuesday, January 21, 2020, 12:58 GMT+7
Vietnam, Thailand league runners-up to clash in AFC Champions League preliminary round
Ho Chi Minh City FC players train in Thailand ahead of the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round match against hosts Buriram United. Photo: Bao Toan / Tuoi Tre

Vietnam’s V-League 1 2019 runners-up Ho Chi Minh City FC will play against hosts Buriram United, the 2019 runners-up of Thai League 1, in the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round on Tuesday.

The 2020 AFC Champions League is the 39th edition of Asia's premier club football tournament organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the 18th under the current AFC Champions League name.

A total of 28 teams will compete from January 14 to 28 for eight of the 32 places in the group stage of the championship.

Ho Chi Minh City FC, who finished second after champions Hanoi FC in the 2019 season of Vietnam’s top professional football league, will represent the Southeast Asian country in the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round following the Capital Team's failure to obtain an AFC Club License.

Their first match on Tuesday will be against Thai football club Buriram United, who were runners-up of top-flight Thai League 1 last year after losing on head-to-head points to Chiangrai United despite both teams leveling on 58 points by the end of the season.

The match will take place at Chang Arena Stadium in Buriram, Thailand at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, and be aired live on HTV Sports Channel in Vietnam.

Star striker Nguyen Cong Phuong (21) vies for possession during a friendly match between Ho Chi Minh City FC and Ulsan Hyundai FC in Ho Chi Minh City on January 17, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre
Star striker Nguyen Cong Phuong (21) of Ho Chi Minh City FC vies for possession during a friendly match against Ulsan Hyundai FC in Ho Chi Minh City on January 17, 2020. Photo: N.K. / Tuoi Tre

The Vietnamese side are prepared for a tough game as seven of Buriram United’s players are Thai internationals, including stars Supachok Sarachat, Supachai Jaided, and Suphanat Mueanta.

The Thai football club have qualified for the AFC Champions League for the seventh consecutive year, having advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinals in 2013 before losing 1-3 to Irani club Esteghlal.

Meanwhile, this is the first time Ho Chi Minh FC have competed in the premier club football tournament.

The Vietnamese club lost all three friendlies against South Korean sides Dongguk University, K-League 2’s Jeonnam Dragons, and K-League 1’s Ulsan Hyundai earlier this month in preparation for the AFC Champions League.

Eyes will be on star striker Nguyen Cong Phuong, who is on loan to Ho Chi Minh FC from Sint-Truiden in Belgium’s top-tier Jupiler Pro League.

Ho Chi Minh City FC manager Chung Hae Soung (L) and midfielder Tran Phi Son at a prematch press conference ahead of the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round opener against hosts Buriram United in Thailand on January 20, 2020. Photo: Bao Toan / Tuoi Tre

Ho Chi Minh City FC manager Chung Hae Soung (L) and midfielder Tran Phi Son at a prematch press conference ahead of the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary round match against hosts Buriram United in Thailand on January 20, 2020. Photo: Bao Toan / Tuoi Tre

“This is an important game for the team to kickstart the 2020 season. I believe the players will demonstrate 100 percent of their ability in the upcoming match with Buriram United,” said Ho Chi Minh FC’s South Korean manager Chung Hae Soung at a prematch press conference on Monday.

If the Vietnamese club win, they will play Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG in the second qualifying play-off round in Shanghai, China on January 28.

If they lose against Buriram United, Ho Chi Minh City FC will play in the 2020 AFC Cup, a secondary club football tournament organized by the AFC.

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