Former champions Gamba Osaka and city rivals Cerezo Osaka both qualified for the 2011 AFC Champions League after finishing second and third in the J.League following wins on the final day of the season.
The two Osaka clubs were the latest additions to the draw for the 32-team group stage, which will be held on December 7 at Hilton Petaling Jaya in Kuala Lumpur.
Kashima Antlers drew 1-1 at Montedio Yamagata to drop from second to fourth and will now aim to win the Emperor’s Cup to secure Japan’s fourth and final spot in Asia’s premier club competition. Kashima play Nagoya in the Emperor’s Cup quarter-finals on December 25.
Six of this year’s quarter-finalists will return for next year’s AFC Champions League – runners-up Zobahan of Iran, semi-finalists Al Hilal and Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia, K-League clubs Jeonbuk Motors and Suwon Bluewings and Qatari champions Al Gharafa.
So far, 29 places among the 32 teams for the group stage, which kicks off on March 1, have been filled. The winners of the Emperor’s Cup final on January 1 will book Japan’s fourth and final spot in Asia, while the last two group-stage spots are reserved for the winners of the east and west playoffs in mid-February.
At least 16 clubs from this year’s AFC Champions League will return for the 2011 campaign and that figure could rise if Kashima qualify from Japan and if Al Ain of the UAE or Al Sadd of Qatar progress from the playoffs.
AFC Champions League 2011 – Group Stage qualifiers
Iran (4) – Sepahan, Zobahan, Esteghlal, Piroozi
Saudi Arabia (4) – Al Hilal, Al Ittihad, Al Nassr, Al Shabab
UAE (3) – Al Wahda, Al Jazira, Emirates
Qatar (2) – Al Gharafa, Al Rayyan
Uzbekistan (2) – Bunyodkor, Pakhtakor
Playoffs* (1) – Al Ain (UAE)/Dempo (IND)/Al Ittihad (SYR)/Al Sadd (QAT)
China (4) – Shandong Luneng, Tianjin Teda, Shanghai Shenhua, Hangzhou Greentown
Japan (4) – Nagoya Grampus, Gamba Osaka, Cerezo Osaka, Emperor’s Cup winners
Korea Republic (4) – FC Seoul, Jeju United, Jeonbuk Motors, Suwon Bluewings
Australia (2) – Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory
Indonesia (1) – Arema Indonesia
Playoffs* (1) – Sriwijaya (IDN)/Muangthong United (THA)
*One club from the west-zone playoffs will be drawn to compete in the east-zone playoffs