A-League Champions Melbourne Victory To Have Chinese Pre-Season

It's a distinctly Chinese flavour to the preparations of the defending champs.
Melbourne Victory will reacquaint themselves with Asia when they face Chinese Super League (CSL) sides Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and Tianjin Teda in June ahead of their lengthy 2009-10 campaign.

Melbourne Victory, who will be grouped against one of four Chinese sides in the AFC Champions League 2010, will play Guangzhou at YueXiuShan Stadium on Friday, June 5 and Tianjin at TEDA Football Stadium two days later.

“Preparation is one of the fundamental keys to success and these two matches in China will provide a fantastic opportunity for the team to compete against high quality opposition ahead of the 2009-10 season,” Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick said.

“We also have Asia’s biggest club competition to look forward to and this experience will be invaluable in ensuring our players are ready for the challenges that lie ahead, both domestically and abroad.”

Melbourne Victory are no strangers to Chinese opposition, having faced Tianjin and the China national team two years ago, as well as CSL team Changchun Yatai at the 2006 North Queensland Challenge.

Melbourne Victory CEO Geoff Miles said the club is looking forward to defending the Lord Mayor’s Cup, which was established as part of Melbourne and Tianjin’s sister city relationship, at TEDA Football Stadium.

“After a hugely successful 2008-09 campaign, we’re really pleased to have the opportunity to return to Asia and represent Melbourne on the international stage again,” Miles said.

“Melbourne and Tianjin have shared a sister city relationship for 30 years and we look forward to defending the Lord Mayor’s Cup in China.”

Tianjin and Guangzhou currently occupy third and fifth respectively on the CSL ladder and are separated only on goal difference, with both sides having recorded three wins and two losses after the opening five rounds.

China international midfielder Xu Liang has scored a league leading five goals for Guangzhou, while Honduras international Luis Ramirez and Brazilian forward Diego have formed an exciting partnership at YueXiuShan Stadium.

Tianjin are also competing in the AFC Champions League 2009 after finishing fourth on last season’s CSL ladder, thanks largely to Brazilian striker Eber Luis, who netted 14 goals, despite missing a third of the season through suspension.