August 25 – Ronaldo and Sadio Mane, captain and vice-captain of Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, will make their debut in the Asian Champions League group stages against Iranian giants Persepolis FC, Qatar’s Al Duhail SC, and newcomers FC Istiklol from Tajikistan.
The AFC has drawn the group stages of its Champions League 2023/24, which will see the region’s 40 best clubs in Asia kick off the competition in September. The draw saw the teams divided into 10 groups – five each in the East and West Zones.
The 10 group winners along with the three best runners-up of each Zone will book their places in the Knockout Stages, which will take place from February to April before the final is held over two legs on May 11 and 18, 2024.
With the four Saudi Pro League clubs in the Champions League having recruited a bulk of the biggest names in world football, giving the AFC Champions League’s West Zone a very different look and international interest than ever before.
Al Hilal, who won the 2019 and 2021 titles and were runners-up last season as well as being runners up in the Club World Cup, will be parading new acquisitions Neymar, Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibly and Aleksander Mitrovic against Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran FC, Mumbai City FC of India and Navbahor of Uzbekistan.
While Al Ittihad and their new stars Fabinho, N’Golo Kante, and Karim Benzema will face Sepahan SC of Iran, Iraq’s Air Force Club and Uzbekistan’s AGMK FC.
While the West Zone is loaded up with big names and UEFA Champions League winners looking to add the Asian title to their honours list, the East Zone has their own power clubs from Japan and South Korea, as well as renewed challenges from Australia and the return of Chinese clubs to the Champions League.
Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan will kick off their title defence against China PR’s Wuhan Three Towns FC, former champions Pohang Steelers of Korea Republic, and Vietnam’s Hanoi FC.
Two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC of Korea Republic, face Thailand’s Bangkok United, Lion City Sailors of Singapore and Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC with Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos, facing Shandong Taishan of China PR, Philippines’ Kaya FC-Iloilo and Incheon United of Korea Republic.
Double winners Ulsan Hyundai of Korea Republic, have been drawn against Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia and Thailand’s BG Pathum United.
Group A: Pakhtakor (UZB), Al Fayha FC (KSA), Ahal FC (TKM), Al Ain FC (UAE)
Group B: Al Sadd SC (QAT), FC Nasaf (UZB), Al Faisaly (JOR), Sharjah FC (UAE)
Group C: Al Ittihad (KSA), Sepahan SC (IRN), Air Force Club (IRQ), AGMK FC (UZB)
Group D: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Nassaji Mazandaran FC (IRN), Mumbai City FC (IND), Navbahor (UZB)
Group E: Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Duhail SC (QAT), FC Istiklol (TJK), Al Nassr (KSA)
Group F: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR), Bangkok United (THA), Lion City Sailors (SGP), Kitchee SC (HKG)
Group G: Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN), Shandong Taishan FC (CHN), Kaya FC-Iloilo (PHI), Incheon United FC (KOR)
Group H: Buriram United (THA), Ventforet Kofu (JPN), Melbourne City FC (AUS), Zhejiang FC (CHN)
Group I: Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS), BG Pathum United (THA)
Group J: Wuhan Three Towns FC (CHN), Pohang Steelers (KOR), Hanoi FC (VIE), Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)
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