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Asian champs Evergrande handed smooth draw

Dec 10, 2015; 6:24 PM 481

Asian title-holders Guangzhou Evergrande were bracketed with Sydney FC on Thursday in what looks like a kind draw for their AFC Champions League title defence next year.

The A-League grand finalists are the only known quantity for Luiz Felipe Scolari's well-heeled Chinese champions, who will start as favourites as they seek a third Asian title in four years.

In Group H, Evergrande and Sydney will face whoever is designated Japan's third team after the Emperor's Cup final in Tokyo on January 1, along with the winner of a play-off.

A-League champions Melbourne Victory were drawn with Japan's second club and Suwon Samsung Bluewings in Group G, while former winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were in Group E.

Among the West Asia groups, Saudi giants Al Hilal were drawn in Group C along with Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor and Tractorsazi Tabriz of Iran.

The group stage runs from February to March with the West and East Asian teams kept apart until the final in November.

Next year's finalists will take home double this season's prize money, with the winners getting $3 million and the runners-up $1.5 million.

Group A: Foolad Mobarakeh Sepahan (IRI), Al Nasr (UAE), Lokomotiv (UZB), Al Ittihad (KSA)/Al Wehdat (JOR)

Group B: Al Nassr (KSA), Zobahan (IRI), Lekhwiya (QAT), Bunyodkor (UZB)/Al Shabab (UAE)

Group C: Pakhtakor (UZB), Al Hilal (KSA), Tractorsazi Tabriz (IRI), Al Jazira (UAE)/Al Sadd (QAT)

Group D: Al Ain (UAE)/Nasaf (UZB)/Al Ahli (KSA)/Naft Tehran (IRN) or El Jaish (QAT)

Group E: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR), Jiangsu Sainty (CHN), Becamex Binh Duong (VIE), Winner Playoff 2

Group F: Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN), FC Seoul (KOR), Buriram United (THA), Winner Playoff 3

Group G: Melbourne Victory (AUS), Japan's second club, Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR), Winner Playoff 4

Group H: Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), Sydney FC (AUS), Japan's third club, Winner Playoff East 1