After a memorable victory last year, Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia, will return to defend their AFC Champions League crown when the anticipated group stage begins tomorrow.
The three-time Continental club winners, who defeated Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in last season’s final, face group stage debutants Shahr Khodro FC of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the Al Wasl Stadium in the UAE at 6:40pm local time. Also, in Group B, Pakhtakor from Uzbekistan take on Shabab Al Ahli Dubai at the Pakhtakor Stadium in Tashkent.
With the ultimate club prize in Asia on the line, this year’s AFC Champions League will be even more significant with both finalists guaranteed a spot in the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup in China PR. The winner will also represent Asia in the 2020 FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “Al Hilal’s victory raised the bar for the rest of Asia and at the same time more fans were engaged last season than ever before. This clearly shows the immense popularity of the AFC Champions League and the impact it has on football in Asia and around the world.”
“The prestigious AFC Champions League trophy has grown into one of the most coveted prizes in world football, and we look forward to another captivating competition for the fans and all our stakeholders. I wish all participating teams the very best of luck.”
In Group A, Al Wahda FSCC from UAE host 2012 AFC Champions League runners-up Al Ahli Saudi FC at the Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi while Iraq’s Al Shorta go up against two-time champions Esteghlal of IR Iran at the Franso Hariri Stadium.
The West Zone action continues on Tuesday with this year’s debutants Sharjah, of the UAE, starting their campaign against Al Taawoun FC of Saudi Arabia in Group C. Meanwhile, Qatar’s Al Duhail FC take on 2018 runners-up Persepolis FC, of IR Iran, at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
In Group D, 2003 winners Al Ain FC from UAE play Sepahan FC, of IR Iran, at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium while Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr go up against two-time winners Al Sadd SC of Qatar in an intriguing clash at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
In the East Zone, Australia’s Melbourne Victory, who booked their spot after recording a memorable win against Japan’s 2018 champions Kashima Antlers in the playoffs, host Thailand’s Chiangrai United, who will be making their maiden appearance on the ultimate club stage at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Group E.
Meanwhile, Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai FC, who lifted the title in 2012, take on FC Tokyo, from Japan, in the first Group F clash at the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium.
On Wednesday, Vissel Kobe, another Japanese contender, make their group stage debut against Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia, in their Group G match at the Misaki Park Stadium in Kobe while Yokohama F. Marinos travel to two-time champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC, from Korea Republic, for their Group H tie at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium.
Catch all the riveting AFC Champions League 2020 action on our website. Football fans also stand a chance to win exclusive prizes from the opening match day and simply need to follow the AFC’s social platforms to find out more