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AFC Club

Afc / June 14, 2017

Reigning ACL champions Jeonbuk have been banned from the competition after a club scout was found guilty of bribery.

The Asian Champions League may not have the global profile of the European version, but the exploits of Chinese teams in the international transfer market is helping.

While the Middle Kingdom's three teams in the tournament that kicks off this week have genuine ambitions of success, Asia's edition has something that Europe lacks: An open competition that can be won by a healthy number of its 32 starters from various countries.

The favourites are, however, Guangzhou Evergrande and it is easy to see why. The Reds became China's first winner after defeating FC Seoul in the 2013 final, 10 years after the tournament came into existence. Incidentally, that was the last time that the eastern and western zones of the AFC - divided for practical purposes of travel and expenses - came together at the quarterfinal stage, now they meet in the final only.

That success was led by Marcello Lippi and repeated by Luiz Felipe Scolari two years later. A group stage exit in 2016 was a shock but has served, especially with Guangzhou winning a sixth straight domestic title, to make a third continental crown a priority.

With a settled team full of talented Chinese and foreign stars with plenty of Asian experience, plus a coach who has already won the tournament, Guangzhou know better than domestic rivals how to handle the demands of the Champions League even if the club has been quiet in the current transfer window.

Chinese Super League rivals Shanghai SIPG have won neither at home or in Asia but are desperate to change that this year, as the £100 million-plus spent on the likes of Brazilians Oscar and Hulk suggests.

Last year's debut ended in a quarterfinal thrashing at the hands of eventual winners Jeonbuk Motors and contributed, along with a somewhat disappointing domestic season, to Sven Goran-Eriksson being replaced by Andre Villas-Boas. Asian glory will be welcome but becoming Chinese champions is the priority. Competing on two fronts will not be easy but then few teams outside Europe can match Shanghai's firepower.

Like Shanghai, Jiangsu Suning would love to win a major title this season, whether it be at home or in Asia. Last season's Super League runners-up see the Champions League as important and it was a reason why Choi Yong-soo was hired as coach in the summer. The South Korean had led FC Seoul to the latter stages on a number of occasions and knows all about the competition. Having the talented Alex Teixeira and Ramires at his disposal is another bonus.