Victory rapt with draw

Melbourne Victory operations manager Gary Cole has described as 'fantastic' the club's Asian Champions League draw in which the A-League titleholders have been grouped with Chinese Super League champions, Beijing Guoan.

Melbourne Victory operations manager Gary Cole has described as 'fantastic' the club's Asian Champions League draw in which the A-League titleholders have been grouped with Chinese Super League champions, Beijing Guoan.

J-League club Kawasaki Frontale and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of South Korea - both of whom finished second in their respective domestic leagues - are the other Group E contenders for the prestigious competition which kicks off in late February.

"We're talking about three big clubs in Asian football," said Cole. "All play in front of big crowds and they've all got much more ACL experience than us."

"We're in Asia's premier club competition and we're expected to play champion football teams and that's what we've got."

Cole believes Melbourne is much better placed now than in 2008 when the club failed to advance beyond the group stage of its first Champions League campaign.

Back then, only the top team from each group qualified to contest the knockout stage, but this time the top two teams from each group advance to the Round of 16.

To get there however, Melbourne will need to survive a testing and congested qualifying schedule which overlaps with the A-League finals in February and March.

"It actually is quite a nice feeling, right now, going into this competition," said Cole.

"But we can't lose focus on our main aim here which is the Hyundai A-League and we've got to make sure we qualify for the finals."

Cole said the lessons of '08 have been taken on board and it's significant that the team is in much better form generally than it was in the lead-up to the last campaign.

"We're confident we've got a team that can go into the next stage and that will be our first goal, to try and qualify for the Round of 16 in May," he said.

"We started the last competition with Archie (Thompson) injured and Carlos (Hernandez) missed the best part of half of the competition."

"Hopefully we'll have everyone bar Billy Celeski back and fit and it will put us in great stead."

Cole said the club may look to promote some members of its youth team to make up the difference between its current A-League squad of 23 and the maximum 30 allowed for the Asian Champions League.

Otherwise, the only signing Melbourne is keen to make, according to Cole, is for another attacker, with Thai international striker Sutee Suksomkit, whose tenure as a guest signing with the club expires after Christmas, a leading contender.

"That is a possibility now that we've got a visa spot opened up," said Cole of Suksomkit.

"We have a visa spot available and some dollars in the kitty to be able to do something."

"We'll definitely look to add another attacking player in that January (transfer) window."