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Preview - West Zone: Preliminary Stage Two

Monday, February 11, 2019
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Kuala Lumpur: The second preliminary round of qualifying for the 2019 AFC Champions League bursts into life on Tuesday when a total eight teams from the West and East Zones will book their place in the competition’s play-off phase. 

Join as we take a look at the eight hopefuls from the West Zone.

Preliminary Stage 2 – West Zone
Pakhtakor (UZB) v Air Force Club (IRQ)
Pakhtakor Stadium, Tashkent; Tuesday, 1500 local time

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Pakhtakor claimed a place in the competition’s preliminary phase after finishing as runners-up in the Uzbekistan League. This will be their 15th AFC Champions League campaign, although after reaching the semi-finals in both 2002-03 and 2004, they have not successfully navigated the group stage since 2010.

How they qualified: Uzbekistan League runners-up
Past ACLs: 2002-03 – Semi-finals; 2004 – Semi-finals; 2005 – Group stage; 2006 – Group stage; 2007 – Group stage; 2008 – Group stage; 2009 – Quarter-finals; 2010 – Round of 16; 2011 – Group stage; 2012 – Group stage; 2013 – Group stage; 2015 – Group stage, 2016 – Group Stage; 2018 – Playoffs

Air Force Club

Air Force Club – also known as Al Quwa Al Jawiya – are braced for their fourth AFC Champions League outing after finishing as runners-up in the Iraqi Premier League. They have previously not progressed beyond the group stage, but will no doubt be buoyed by their hat-trick of AFC Cup title successes in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

How they qualified: Iraqi Premier League runners-up
Past ACLs: 2004 – Group Stage; 2006 – Group Stage; 2008 – Group Stage

AGMK FC (UZB) v FC Istiklol (TJK)
AGMK Stadium, Almalyk; Tuesday, 1600 local time


Based to the east of Tashkent in the city of Almalyk, AGMK are beginning their debut continental campaign from the preliminary stage after winning the Uzbekistan Cup thanks to a 3-1 win over fellow AFC Champions League hopefuls Pakhtakor. AGMK, who have featured in Uzbekistan’s top-flight since 2008, were only founded in 2004.

How they qualified: Uzbekistan Cup winners
No previous AFC Champions League appearances

FC Istiklol

FC Istiklol (pictured above) are set to make their AFC Champions League debut after claiming a seventh Tajik top-flight crown. They have, however, plenty of continental experience thanks to their exploits in the AFC Cup – a competition in which they were runners-up in 2016 and 2017.

How they qualified: Tajik League champions
No previous AFC Champions League appearances

Saipa (IRN) v Minerva Punjab (IND)
Shahr-e Qods Stadium, Tehran; Tuesday, 1710 local time


After finishing fourth in the Iran Pro League standings, Saipa return to the continent’s premier club competition for only a second time. Their previous appearance came in 2008 when they reached the quarter-finals before being beaten over two legs by FC Bunyodkor from Uzbekistan.

How they qualified: Iran Pro League 4th place
Past ACLs: 2008 – Quarter-finals

Minerva Punjab

Minerva Punjab famously claimed last season’s I-League title after only two years of football in India’s top-flight. The club, which is based in the city of Chandigarh, will be making their AFC Champions League debut.

How they qualified: I-League champions
No previous AFC Champions League appearances

Zobahan FC (IRN) v Kuwait SC (KUW)
Foolad Shahr Stadium, Isfahan; Tuesday, 1900 local time

Zobahan FC

AFC Champions League runners-up in 2010, Zobahan are featuring in the competition for an eighth time after finishing as runners-up in the Iranian league. Since their appearance in the final, Zobahan’s best performances to date came in 2016 and then again last year when they reached the Round of 16.

How they qualified: Iran Pro League runners-up
Past ACLs: 2004 – Group Stage; 2010 – Runners-up; 2011 – Quarter-finals; 2012 – Qualifying Round; 2016 – Round of 16; 2017 – Group Stage; 2018 – Round of 16

Kuwait SC

Last week’s impressive 3-2 win at Jordan’s Al Wehdat saw Kuwait SC (pictured above) advance to set up a meeting with Zobahan. The Kuwaitis are appearing in the AFC Champions League for a sixth time, with the club’s best performances to date having been group stage finishes in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

How they qualified: Kuwaiti Premier League champions
Past ACLs: 2002-03 – Qualifying Round; 2005 – Group Stage; 2007 – Group Stage; 2008 – Group Stage; 2014 – Playoffs

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