November 29 – With just one game left in the group stages of the Asian Champions League (West region) to be played, qualification for the round of 16 is starting to take shape.
This season will see eight teams from each of the AFC’s east and west regions head into the knockout round of 16. Previously teams from the two regions would not have met until the final.
Only group winners qualify automatically, with six further spots (three from each region) allocated for the best runners-up from the group stage.
Already three out of the five groups in the West zone have winners after a fifth round of matches that proved make or break for a number of teams.
AFC player of the year Salem Al Dawsari (pictured) missed two penalties before scoring a stunning goal for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal to seal the Saudi Arabian side’s win against Navbahor of Uzbekistan in Group D on Tuesday, pretty much guaranteeing their progression to the next round ahead of Navbahor.
Al Hilal will join fellow Saudis Al Nassr, who have qualified from Group E ahead of Iran’s Persepolis. In group C Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad is currently two points ahead of Iran’s Sepahan but look to have advantage going into the final round.
In Group A the UAE’s Al Ain have secured top spot with Pakhator FC from Uzbekistan and Saudi’s Arabia’s Al Fayha meeting in the final round of matches to decide the second spot. Al Fayha must win to leapfrog Pakhator.
The tightest of the West region groups is B. Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf currently leads the group on 10 points but face Qatar’s Al Sadd who are three points behind. In between them are the UAE’s Sharjah FC.
The 10 group winners along with the three best runners-up of each Zone will meet in the Knockout Stages to be played from February to April 2024 before the final is held over two legs on May 11 and 18, 2024.
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