Aston Villa to face newcomers Bayer Leverkusen in Soccer Sevens
Defending champions will be out for their seventh Hong Kong trophy after being drawn against the German newcomers in their group for May tournament
Defending HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens champions Aston Villa will face German newcomers Bayer Leverkusen, HKFA U-23 and competition regulars Singapore Cricket Club in an intriguing looking group C after the draw for the May 26-28 tournament took place at Hong Kong Football Club on Tuesday.
Villa defeated West Ham United 2-0 in last year’s final to lift the trophy for a record sixth time, having last been victorious in 2010.
And the holders’ match against Leverkusen – the first side from Germany to compete in the tournament – promises to be one of the most interesting of the group stage.
“We knew it was going to be exciting with the new teams coming in,” said tournament director Chris Plowman.
“But looking at the Germans, Bayer Leverkusen, taking on the current champions Aston Villa – and then our own Hong Kong Football Association and Singapore Cricket Club – that’s an interesting group.”
Leverkusen are one of three debutants from Europe, with Olympique Marseille and Cagliari Calcio becoming the first teams from France and Italy respectively to feature at an annual event that now has an even greater international flavour.
In 2015, Atletico Madrid became the first Spanish side to appear at the tournament as they made their debut in style by lifting the Cup following a thrilling 3-2 win over West Ham after extra time in the final.
Marseille have been drawn in group D alongside 2015 and 2016 runners-up West Ham, who will be hoping to make it third time lucky at Hong Kong Football Club, having reached the last two finals.
Hong Kong Premier League side and 2011 winners Kitchee along with Yau Yee League Select, who represent the local amateur league, make up a competitive looking group.
Cagliari, meanwhile, will make their tournament bow in group A, where they will meet 2009 and 2010 runners-up Glasgow Rangers, who return after a two-year absence.
South Korea’s FC Seoul, who reached the semi-final on their debut, and HKFC make up the group.
“We wanted to become more international,” added Plowman. “We were fortunate enough to get Atletico Madrid in 2015 and they were just a revelation. They played fantastic football and came back in the final from 2-0 down to win.”