Al Sadd target title as AFC Champions League draw announced

  • 4 weeks   ago

QNB Stars League leaders and Qatar’s only AFC Champions League champions Al Sadd have been drawn in Group D for this year’s competition yesterday.

Xavi Hernandez’s team was placed alongside familiar group mates from last year’s competition, Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia, and will be joined by Al Wehdat of Jordan and the playoff winner of the game between Al-Ain (UAE) and Foolad (Iran).

 

In last year’s competition, which concluded with centralised group action from both the West and the East zones followed by the final in Qatar, the 1989 and 2011 champions Al Sadd, and Al Nassr had made it to the knockouts. Al Sadd had made it to the Round of 16 of the competition.

Second in the Qatari league currently, Al Duhail took their spot in Group C, along with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli, Iran’s Esteghlal and Iraq’s Al Shorta, for this year’s competition.

Al Rayyan has been drawn in Group E with Iran’s Persepolis, India’s FC Goa and the winners of the playoff between Al Wahda from the UAE and Iraq’s Al Zawraa.

A fourth Qatari team, Al Gharafa, has the opportunity to be placed in Group A with a playoff against AGMK of Uzbekistan. Group A comprises Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Shabab Al Ahli of the UAE and FC Istiklol of Tajikistan.

“Al Sadd has an important journey ahead of them in the tournament and the team has sufficient experience to achieve the best results in the group stage, and we will strive to move step by step to achieve this,” Al Sadd first team manager Abdullah al-Breik was quoted on the team’s website.

He added: “I hope our participation in the tournament will be better than in the previous editions and we want to reach the farthest point in the tournament and achieve the title, and this is not new for Al Sadd, having won the title twice previously.”

South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai will be among the favourites to advance to the knockout rounds after the defending champions were drawn to face a pair of debutants in the competition’s group phase.

Ulsan, who defeated Persepolis in the final of last year’s competition to win the title for the second time, will face Thailand’s BG Pathum United and fellow newcomers Viettel from Vietnam in Group F.

The group will be completed by the winners of a playoff featuring Australia’s Brisbane Roar, Kaya-Iloilo of the Philippines and Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan.

Forty teams will participate in the group phase of the competition — an increase from 32 last year — with the winners of each group plus the three best runners-up from the west and east regions advancing to the last 16.

Australian champions Sydney FC face the daunting task of taking on two-time champions Jeonbuk Motors in Group H alongside former winners Gamba Osaka from Japan and Singapore’s Tampines Rovers.

Two-time champions Guangzhou FC — formerly known as Guangzhou Evergrande — take on Japanese champions Kawasaki Frontale in Group I as well as tournament newcomers United City from the Philippines. The group will be completed by the winners of the playoff between South Korea’s Daegu FC and Chiangrai United from Thailand.

Matches are scheduled to begin in April, with the knockout rounds slated to be played from mid-September. The final will be held over two legs on Nov. 21 and Nov. 27.

Source: Gulf times

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