Newcomers Fulham and Portimonense will face off in the group stage of the 2019 HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens following Wednesday’s draw for the 20th anniversary edition of the tournament at Hong Kong Football Club.
The English and Portuguese sides will be joined in Group A by competition regulars West Ham United and local outfit HKFC Captain’s Select for the tournament, which will be held between May 17-19.
Newcastle United begin the defence of their title, having beaten Rangers in the 2018 final, alongside Brighton & Hove Albion, current AFC Champions League holders Kashima Antlers from Japan and Hong Kong side Yau Yee League Select in Group C.
Six-time winners Aston Villa will go head-to-head with two-time champions Leicester City in Group B in a repeat of the 2017 final, with the duo joined by nine-time Hong Kong champions Kitchee and Singapore Cricket Club.
Finally, in Group D, Rangers return in search of their maiden HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens title against newcomers Wolverhampton Wanderers, HKFA Red Dragons and Hong Kong Football Club in Group D.
“The group that intrigues me the most is Group A in the Main tournament which sees West Ham, who are always a strong side, and two newcomers in Portimonense and Fulham, so who knows how strong they’ll be,” said HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens Tournament Director Chris Plowman.
“They’re going to be going up against our HKFC Captain’s Select team, so if there’s a group of death, I’m guessing that’s the one.
“Leicester and Villa in the same group will be interesting and Kitchee as a local side are always very strong. Singapore Cricket Club have got some tough matches on their hands.”
New Hong Kong national team head coach Mixu Paatelainen, who was only appointed earlier in April, also attended the draw.
“It’s wonderful. There’s history to this tournament and you can see there are big clubs from England taking part,” said former Finland international Paatelainen.
“Any international match is important for the youngsters in terms of development so an international tournament will be valuable for Hong Kong’s youngsters to play against hopefully the future stars of the Premier League, who it will be interesting to see playing.”
In the Masters tournament, defending champions Discovery Bay have been paired in Group A with two-time winners Citi All Stars, last year’s runners-up Nottingham Forest Mobsters, HKFC Chairman’s Select and Singapore Cricket Club Masters.
In Group B, meanwhile, playonPROS will play competition regulars Wallsend Boys Club, and Hong Kong sides Eleven FC, HKFC Masters and Kowloon Cricket Club Veterans.
“It is a very exciting draw and you can see from the line-up it will be very fierce competition,” said Wayne Fong, Head of Corporate Affairs at Citi Hong Kong.
“At Citi we are very proud to be sponsor again for the next three years and we are looking forward to a very exciting and successful event this year.
“We like that the tournament changes every year and invites teams from all over the world to make it more diverse, allowing this tournament to be better and bigger.”