January 27 – The AFC today completed the draw for its expanded 2021 Champions League at headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
Current champions Ulsan Hyundai FC – who open play in the Club World Cup in Qatar February 6 – will begin the defence of their Champions League title in Group F against Thailand’s BG Pathum United, Vietnam’s Viettel FC and a playoff winner.
Iranian giants Persepolis, runners-up in the 2020 final, were drawn with Al Rayyan of Qatar, India’s FC Goa and a playoff winner in Group E.
The 2020 Asian Champions League was successfully completed in November and December at breakneck speed using Qatar as a centralised venue for all the final group matches and the knock-out rounds.
The AFC said that centralised venues will be used again for the group rounds that will see 40 teams compete, an increase of eight, in 10 groups of four – five groups in each of the East and West zones.
No centralised venues have been announced and while Qatar hosted all groups in 2020, more than one venue looks likely for 2021 group hosting. West zone groups will be played from April 14 – 30, while the East Zone will start a week later playing April 21 to May 7.
The play-off games deciding the final group spots will be played the week before the groups begin.
The competition will then break until September when it restarts with round of 16 matches. The two-legged final will be played November 21 and 27 with the winner becoming the AFC’s representative in the second Club World Cup of 2021 in Qatar in December.
2021 AFC Champions League Group Stage Draw
Group A: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Shabab Al Ahli (UAE), FC Istiklol (TJK), QAT-UZB P/O winner
Group B: Sharjah (UAE), Tractor FC (IRN), Pakhtakor (UZB), KSA-IRQ P/O winner
Group C: Al Duhail SC (QAT), Al Ahli Saudi (KSA), Esteghlal (IRN), Al Shorta (IRQ)
Group D: Al Sadd SC (QAT), Al Nassr (KSA), Al Wehdat (JOR), IRN-UAE P/O winner
Group E: Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Rayyan (QAT), FC Goa (IND), UAE-IRQ P/O winner
Group F: Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), BG Pathum United (THA), Viettel FC (VIE), AUS-PHI-CHN P/O winner
Group G: Jiangsu FC (CHN), Nagoya Grampus (JPN), Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS), KOR-THA P/O winner.
Group H: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR), Gamba Osaka (JPN), Tampines Rovers (SIN), Sydney FC (AUS)
Group I: Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Guangzhou FC CHN), United City FC (PHI), KOR-THA P/O winner
Group J: Shandong Luneng FC (CHN), Port FC (THA), Kitchee SC (HKG), JPN-AUS-MYA P/O Winner
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