Jets and Mariners draw well

Newcastle and Central Coast have been handed favourable groups after the draw for the group stage of the Asian Champions League took place in Dubai on Tuesday.

Newcastle and Central Coast have been handed favourable groups after the draw for the group stage of the Asian Champions League took place in Dubai on Tuesday.

Both sides avoided Japanese powerhouses Gamba Osaka and Kashima Antlers, as well as Korean champions Suwan Samsong.

The Jets have perhaps the easier group, drawn in Group E along with Korea's Ulsan Hyundai, Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus and Chinese team Beijing Guoan.

Ulsan and Beijing both finished in third place in the Korean and Chinese leagues respectively, while Nagoya will be making its first appearance in the Champions League.

The Mariners meanwhile, have been drawn in Group H and will face Korean team Pohang Steelers, Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale and China's Tianjin Teda.

The Steelers were of course beaten by Adelaide United home and away in the group stage of last year's tournament. Tianjin finished fourth in its league, while Kawasaki was runners-up in the J-League.

"The Newcastle Jets and ourselves stayed away from the more difficult groups and it would be fair to say that we're quite happy with the draw," coach Lawrie McKinna said.

"We've got some basic feedback on all of our opponents and now we'll explore our contacts in China, Japan and Korea in the hope of learning more about each of them."

"All the teams are going to be strong, the J.League teams are obviously the most fancied and will always be there or thereabouts, but we're not going to be putting any team on a pedestal, we'll be going out there to compete, do well and hopefully get out of the group."

The format has changes slightly from previous years, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the round of 16, in which the top teams are at home for a straight one-match, knock-out competition.

An open draw is then conducted for the quarter-finals. Home-and-away format will be used until the final, which is a one-off match in Tokyo.

Prizemoney has been increased for the lucrative tournament with $1.5 million going to the winners and $750,000 to the runners-up.

Group A: Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan), Al Ahli (United Arab Emirates), Saba Battery (Iran)

Group B: Persepolis (Iran), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia), Al Gharafa (Qatar), West Asian Playoff Winner

Group C: Al Jazira (United Arab Emirates), Esteghlal (Iran), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Umm Salal (Qatar)

Group D: Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al Shabab (United Arab Emirates), Sepahan (Iran), Al Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia)

Group E: Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i (Korea Republic), Newcastle Jets (Australia), Beijing Guoan (China), Nagoya Grampus (Japan)

Group F: Gamba Osaka (Japan), FC Seoul (Korea Republic), Sriwijaya (Indonesia), Shandong Luneng (China)

Group G: Shanghai Shenhua (China), Kashima Antlers (Japan), Suwon Samsung Bluewings (Korea Republic), East Asian Playoff Winner

Group H: Central Coast Mariners (Australia), Tianjin Teda (China), Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Pohang Steelers (Korea Republic)