It's been three years since Melbourne Victory were in the Asian Champions League. On February 15, the three-time group stage entrants will try to make it four in hosting a qualifying playoff at Kardinia Park in Geelong. While the Victory do not yet know their specific opponent, they do know it will be one of five teams who will compete earlier in February to determine who travels to Australia with a group stage position on the line.
Muangthong United (Thailand), Pune FC (India), Hanoi T&T (Vietnam), Tampines Rovers (Singapore) and South China AA (Hong Kong) are the potential foes for Melbourne as they seek to return to the continental competition where they were regulars between 2008 and 2011. Should they advance, the Victory would drop into the very difficult Group G with Champions League holders and Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande, Jeonbuk Motors (Korea) and Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan).
Victory CEO Ian Robson explained why the club will play the match in Geelong instead of at AAMI Park or Etihad Stadium in Melbourne:
"There's no doubting the importance of this competition to our club and we are delighted to be able to play this crucial qualifier in Geelong.
"As a club, we've hosted many community programs in Geelong over the years and have been overwhelmed by support for our club, while the popularity and growth football is experiencing down there is remarkable.
"We've got no doubt the people of Geelong and its surrounding areas will fully support this match, as well as our Melbourne-based fans, with many expected to make the trip down the highway."
Kardinia Park, previously known as Skilled Stadium (and currently known as Simonds Stadium) has a 33,500 capacity and is the home ground of AFL side Geelong FC. The Victory's scheduled home game against Western Sydney Wanderers was moved to Tuesday night so it would not conflict with the Champions League. Melbourne play A-League matches at Central Coast Mariners February 8 and at home against Adelaide United on February 22 surrounding the qualifier.