Kuala Lumpur: The 2018 AFC Champions League Knockout Stage draw has concluded and the last eight teams have identified their quarter-final rivals, following the official draw ceremony at the AFC House on Wednesday.
It’s been well over 27 years since Islamic Republic of Iran’s Esteghlal FC were crowned the Asian champions and Winfried Schäfer’s side will be aiming to return to glory and a third title as they go up against two-time champions, Al Sadd of Qatar.
Qatar’s Al Duhail boast impressive domestic successes this year and will look to maintain their immaculate record and add a Continental club silverware to their collection but will first welcome Iran Pro League champions, Persepolis.
Persepolis have yet to win the AFC Champions League and after a semi-final exit in 2017, Branko Ivankovic’s charges will be aiming for the title.
Kashima Antlers from Japan, who have not gone beyond the quarter-finals stage, will welcome China PR’s Tianjin Quanjian, who have performed spectacularly in their first appearance in the AFC Champions League, and are certainly looking to extend their run.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, champions in 2006 and 2016, will lock horns with fellow Korea Republic side Suwon Samsung Bluewings, who have also won the title twice - in the 2000/01 and 2001/02 seasons.
AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John, who opened the draw ceremony, began by praising the progress the prestigious tournament has made since it’s rebranding, with the introduction of a new format, increased prize money and expanded competition from 28 to 32 teams.
“A decade later, we have a club competition few in the world can match,” said Dato’ Windsor.
“From record attendances to greater fan engagement, the AFC Champions League continues to capture imaginations in Asia and beyond. Above all, it provides the ultimate stage for the stars of the Asian game to shine.”