Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory ready for AFC Champions League draw
A half of football ago, Melbourne Victory were bottom of the A-League, but now they're eyeing success in the AFC Champions League.
Such is the mercurial nature of Australian football, where fortunes can flip in a moment -- and past successes take months to bear fruit.
The Victory and Sydney FC will discover their Champions League groups on Wednesday night, months after their run to last season's A-League Grand Final earned them the place among Asia's elite.
The Sky Blues appear primed for the challenge.
A record-breaking campaign last season has continued this year, with Graham Arnold's team five points clear on top of the league.
By contrast, the Victory almost headed to the draw in Kuala Lumpur sitting rock bottom of the competition.
That was provisionally the case at half-time against Wellington, before a three-goal second half saw Kevin Muscat's side overhaul the Phoenix for a 3-1 win.
Now, the Victory sit just inside the top six and are hoping the combination of that effort and the lure of the Champions League can kickstart their season.
Kevin Muscat's men have been placed in Group F, and will face both Japanese and Korean opponents in a four-team group.
The complex draw process will mean the Victorians face J-League winners Kawasaki Frontale and K-League runners up Jeju United -- including Australian Aleksandar Jovanovic -- or Korean champions Jeonbuk and J-League second-place getters Kashima Antlers.
Rounding out Victory's group will be the winner of a playoff with Shanghai SIPG of China.
Jeonbuk have knocked out the Victory in their last two Asian appearances -- in 2014 and 2016.
Sydney already know one of their three opponents; Chinese FA Cup winners Shanghai Shenhua, which boasts Argentinian Carlos Tevez. A third side will come from Japan or Korea, with another playoff opponent in the wings.
That playoff winner could be Suwon Bluewings which feature former Sky Blues defender and new Socceroo Matthew Jurman.
Like the Victory, Arnold oversaw a run to the last 16 on their last entry, in 2016, losing to Shandong Luneng.
A third Australian team, Brisbane Roar, could yet feature in the 2018 competition.
John Aloisi's side must come through a home playoff on Jan. 23 against opposition from Myanmar or the Philippines, before a Jan. 30 showdown away against China's Tianjin Quanjian.