The 2023-24 AFC competitions enter their fifth matchday this week. Here is everything you need to know about the three Australian clubs involved across the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.
For the first time in history, three Australian clubs are on the cusp of qualification to the knockout stages of AFC competition.
Melbourne City are the Isuzu UTE A-League’s sole representative in the AFC Champions League and they could seal their passage through the group phase.
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Central Coast Mariners and Macarthur FC are competing in the AFC Cup and the A-Leagues duo are also within touching distance of the knockout phase.
This is how things stand heading into matchday five across the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.
Reigning three-time Isuzu UTE A-League premiers Melbourne City are racking up the frequent flyer miles as they head to Japan for their clash with Ventforet Kofu on Wednesday.
City – in the midst of a three-game winless streak – lost away to A-Leagues high-flyers Wellington Phoenix in Auckland over the weekend and flew from New Zealand to Brisbane en route to Japan for their matchday five showdown against the J2 League outfit.
Ventforet and City are level on seven points through two games, one point clear of Arthur Papas’ Buriram United, though the former are top of the group based on goals scored.
Ventforet and City drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture in Melbourne and both have the same goal difference of +2, but the Japanese side have scored more goals (five to four) so far.
If City were to conquer Ventforet at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo and Buriram lost away to Zhejiang in China, Aurelio Vidmar’s team would qualify for the next round with a match to spare due to a superior head-to-head record.
Macarthur FC are in a race with Cambodia’s Phnom Penh in Group F in the AFC Cup.
Mile Sterjovski’s Macarthur and Phnom are both on nine points heading into the fifth matchday this week, but the Bulls hold the head-to-head advantage having crushed the Cambodian outfit 5-0 in Campbelltown following a 3-0 loss in the reserve fixture in October.
Macarthur’s home match against Shan United on Thursday night has been moved to Thailand after the federal government refused to grant visas to players from the Myanmar side.
A win for the Bulls, who are unbeaten in the A-Leagues this season and already topped Shan United 3-0 in September, would go a long way in sealing their passage.
Central Coast Mariners
Central Coast Mariners are finally off the mark in the Isuzu UTE A-League and the defending champions head into their AFC Cup fixture in a confident mood.
The Mariners hadn’t won in the A-Leagues this season but snapped their 2023-24 drought with a F3 Derby triumph against Newcastle Jets over the weekend.
They haven’t had too many problems throughout their AFC Cup campaign so far, aside from one blip, and have the chance to do a double on Wednesday.
Welcoming Terengganu FC to Gosford, the Mariners are the Group G leaders and will be confirmed as group winners if they take down the Malaysian visitors.
A victory would also avenge Central Coast’s 1-0 loss away to Terengganu on matchday one.