Melbourne Victory will take on Chonburi FC in the AFC Champions League 2008.
Chonburi FC was founded in 2002 and, along with Melbourne Victory, is competing in the AFC Champions League for the first time after convincingly winning the Thailand Premier League in its second season in the top flight.
Known as “the Shark”, Chonburi produced a remarkable effort to win 19 of its 30 matches last year, becoming the first team from outside Bangkok to claim the Thailand Premier League title in its 11-season history.
Chonburi is part of a worldwide alliance with Manchester City and recently had two of its star defenders, Suree Sukha and Kiatprawut Saiwaeo, move to the English Premier League outfit as part of the agreement.
Despite losing their key backs, Chonburi possesses a number of exciting Thai youngsters and has a pair of foreign forwards, Stephane Baga (Cameroon) and Ney Fabiano De Oliveira (Brazil), who could prove a valuable asset in Asia-s premier club competition.
Based in eastern Thailand, the Shark will be buoyed by strong support from its fans, which were recently dubbed “the most famous in the Thailand Premier League” by goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattanakool.
Victory will travel to Thailand to face Chonburi on Wednesday, 19 March, before hosting the Shark in its final Group G match at Telstra Dome on Wednesday, 21 May (kick off 7:30pm).
Victory will take on Chonburi at Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok after the Asian Football Confederation deemed that Chonburi Stadium, where the match was originally scheduled to be played, was unsatisfactory.
Supachalasai Stadium, which has a capacity of around 35,000, hosted a Group Stage fixture between Iraq and Oman at last year-s AFC Asian Cup and was also used by the Socceroos for a number of training sessions.
Victory will have the added task of adjusting to the expected testing weather conditions in Bangkok, where the average temperature hovers around 30 degrees and rainfall is rarely seen during March.
Kosin Hathairattanakool is credited as the major force behind Chonburi-s outstanding Thailand Premier League season after joining the club from Indonesian side Persib Bandung.
The 179 cm tall goalkeeper, 25, is one of the stars of Thai football and has worked hard to secure a regular starting position in the national team.
Australian fans may have seen Kosin in action during the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, where he featured in Thailand-s three group matches, including one against the Socceroos, in which Australia scored four goals at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.
Kosin was recently linked to a move to Manchester City, but the modest custodian said: “I still have to improve. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet, but if it happened, it would be like a dream.”