Analysis: Roar's ACL opponent Beijing Guoan

Our Asian football expert offers his insights into Brisbane Roar FC's opening Asian Champions League group opponent Beijing Guoan, who meet on the Gold Coast this Wednesday night.

Chinese New Year offers a rare sight - the city of Beijing without a few million of its inhabitants as people go home to see family back in the provinces. The traffic is manageable, the skies seem a bit bluer and it is all eerily quiet.

There's been no rest for Beijing Guoan however. There is the small matter of an AFC Champions League opener with Brisbane Roar on Wednesday. 

This is a tournament close to the heart of the Chinese capital and fans turn out in numbers to watch. It has, however, been a source of frustration over the years. There have been plenty of appearances but not much impact. Beijing is one of Asia's biggest underachievers.

It can be argued that the rise of Guangzhou Evergrande was necessary for Chinese football. It raised the standard and profile of the league and gave others something to aim for.

Beijing sees it differently and has suffered more than any other in the shadow of the southern giant. The club's first title came in 2009 just before Guangzhou was taken over by Evergrande. 

Korean coach Lee Jang-soo was fired by Beijing not long before the title was confirmed ( an episode that deserves its own article) and he was soon snapped up by Guangzhou and laid the foundations for Evergrande's domination.

Take a look at the table when Beijing was champion. Next came Changchun Yatai and Henan Jianye. The big spending Evergrande, Guangzhou R&F and Shanghai SIPG were nowhere to be seen.

It should have been the start of Beijing's most successful ever period but the spending of others put paid to all that. At first the club saw itself as above it all. In 2011, outspoken chairman Luo Ning was scornful of Evergrande's investment in Guangzhou, predicting that the company would sell the club in three to five years.

That has not yet happened but it was soon obvious that if it wanted to challenge Guangzhou there had to be investment. And there has been.

The foreign contingent is a strong one. Dejan Damjanovic is the deadliest overseas striker that the K-League has ever seen, talents that led Jiangsu to pay $5 million to FC Seoul for his talents at the start of 2014. Beijing took the Montenegrin international from its Nanjing rivals.

Ha Dae-sung also made the move from the Korean capital in another big-money move. One of Asia's most cultured midfielders has been kept out of the national team by the form and class of Ki Sung-yeung. And then there's Darko Matic, an excellent holding midfielder along with classy Argentine Pablo Batalla.

Xu Yunlong offers plenty of experience in defence even if his national team days are over. Zhang Chengdong is a hard-working right-sided midfielder and an important member of the Asian Cup team. He is also one of the rare Chinese players with European experience after a stint in Portugal with Beira-Mar.

Beijing has kept most of its 2014 team together though the departure of midfield star Zhang Xizhe to German club Wolfsburg is going to hurt. It just depends how much.

Such talent almost delivered in 2014 as Beijing took the title race down to the last weekend before finishing second. A win at the home of Guangzhou Evergrande in the penultimate round showed a new side to the Greens, one that could live with the pressure and get the result needed. This has not always been the case.

If Beijing can continue such form, it could have a best-ever Asian campaign - though that isn't saying much – and if it can start with a win over Brisbane on the Gold Coast, the skies over the famous old capital will be bluer than ever and the Chinese Year of the Goat will start with a bang.