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2021 AFC Champions League West: Host Venues

Riyadh: The 2021 AFC Champions League gets underway in an expanded new format with 40 clubs competing in 10 groups and we take look at the six venues that will be hosting the centralised West Groups A to E over the next three weeks.

Following the success of the 2020 competition held in Qatar, this year’s group stage takes place in a centralised format but across four cities in three different countries as the AFC continues to find solutions for the beautiful game in the continent to navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and - for the first time - India are hosting the 2021 AFC Champions League group stage games. profiles the host grounds.

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Sharjah Stadium – Sharjah, UAE

Home of the 2018-19 UAE Pro League champions Sharjah FC, the 15,000 all-seater capacity stadium in Sharjah is one of the emirate’s oldest grounds, located in the Samnan industrial district to the east of the city.

The stadium was revamped in 2018 in preparation for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 where it hosted five group stage matches as well as the Round of 16 clash between former champions Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Several players from Pakhtakor and Air Force Club will be familiar with the ground, having played there for the Uzbekistan and Iraq national teams during the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, while Group B also features Islamic Republic of Iran’s Tractor FC in addition to the home team.

King Fahd International Stadium – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

One of Asia’s most iconic grounds, with its unique design resembling a traditional Arabian tent and its famous arches, the King Fahd International Stadium is the centerpiece of the kingdom’s sporting venues.

Located on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh, the 67,000-capacity stadium was opened in 1987 to host games in the 1989 FIFA U20 World Cup - including the final between Portugal and Nigeria. It has since hosted events such as the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2000 Asian Club Championship final, AFC Champions League finals in 2014 and 2017 as well as being the home ground of the Saudi Arabia national team for decades.

With two groups of the 2021 AFC Champions League taking place in Riyadh, the King Fahd International Stadium will host as many as 12 group stage matches featuring Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, FC Istiklol and FC AGMK from Group A, Al Sadd SC, Al Wehdat SC and Foolad FC from Group D.

Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

While the larger King Fahd International Stadium has served as the national stadium, it is the more traditional Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, commonly known as Al Malaz Stadium, after the Riyadh district in which it is located, that has served as the spiritual home of club football in the city.

The 22,000-capacity stadium - opened in 1971 - historically hosted the home matches of the Saudi capital’s top flight clubs; Al Hilal, Al Nassr and Al Shabab.

In the 2021 AFC Champions League, Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium will host six matches in Group A, featuring local side Al Hilal, UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli Dubai as well as FC AGMK and Istiklol.

King Saud University Stadium – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The latest addition to the scene of football grounds in Riyadh, the 25,000-capacity stadium located inside the King Saud University campus was opened in 2015 and has served as the home ground of Al Hilal between 2017 and 2020, hosting the 2019 AFC Champions League final first leg against Urawa Red Diamonds.

In 2020, the club became the new home stadium of Al Nassr and saw its stands painted yellow to match the club colours.

The King Saud University Stadium will host six matches in Group D, featuring home side Al Nassr in addition to Qatar’s Al Sadd, Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foolad FC and debutants Al Wehdat of Jordan.

King Abdullah Sports City Stadium – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Located in Saudi Arabia’s second most populous city, the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium was opened in 2014 to become the Kingdom’s second largest venue with a capacity of 62,000 fans.

Since its inauguration, the stadium has hosted big games including the 2018 Italian Super Cup between Juventus and AC Milan and the four-team 2019 Spanish Super Cup contested by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia. It also hosted various sporting events such as WWE and Boxing.

In the 2021 AFC Champions League, King Abdullah Sports City Stadium will host all matches of Group B featuring hosts Al Ahli Saudi FC, Iraq’s Al Shorta, Qatar’s Al Duhail and IR Iran’s Esteghlal.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium – Goa, India

Hosting AFC Champions League matches for the first time is FC Goa’s home ground of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the southern Indian state of Goa. Built in 1989 and with a capacity of 19,000 fans, this stadium also serves as a Cricket ground.

Over its life, the stadium commonly known as Fatorda ‘The Fortress’ has hosted several major sporting events including three knock-out stage matches in the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup, two in the Round of 16 and one in the quarter-finals.

The Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium plays host to Group E matches, featuring the home side in addition to 2020 runners-up Persepolis, Qatar’s Al Rayyan and UAE’s Al Wahda FSCC.

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