Preview: Foolad Khouzestan, Al Ain on AFC Champions League group stage mission
Riyadh: 2002-03 champions Al Ain FC will be aiming to reach the AFC Champions League group stage for the 16th time in their history when they face Islamic Republic of Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan FC in the playoff round on Saturday.
The UAE side have never lost an AFC Champions League playoff game, having beaten Indonesia’s Sriwijaya FC in 2011, Bahrain’s Malkiya SC in 2018 and Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor last year.
Foolad, on the other side, have never contested a playoff match, having appeared in one edition before qualifying playoffs were introduced and qualified to the group stage directly in two subsequent appearances.
Sharjah: The AFC Champions League is back, and with an unprecedented 40 teams spread across 10 groups, the race for the title of Asian champions is sure to be bigger and more intense than ever.
One of the West Zone’s most interesting groups will be found in the United Arab Emirates, where Sharjah will welcome Uzbekistan Super League holders FC Pakhtakor, Iranian Cup winners FC Tractor and Air Force Club of Iraq, who sealed their place with a thrilling play-off win earlier this week.
Ahead of Wednesday’s kick-off, allow the-AFC.com to bring you up to speed with the venue, star players and the group’s context.
Riyadh: The second of two 2021 AFC Champions League groups being played in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Group A gets underway on Thursday with 2019 winners Al Hilal SFC joined by 2015 runners-up Shabab Al Ahli and debutants FC Istiklol and FC AGMK.
In the competition’s expanded format of 40 teams playing in 10 groups, with the group winners in addition to the best six runners-up advancing to the Round of 16, competition will be more intense than ever to book a place in the knock-out stages.
Kuala Lumpur: As fans of Asian football prepare for the return of the AFC Champions League, with the group stage of the 19th edition of the continental competition kicking off on Wednesday, the-AFC.com looks back at the tournament's history.
A record 40 teams split into 10 groups will take part in the 2021 AFC Champions League as the competition continues to go from strength to strength, showcasing Asia's finest teams and numerous world-renowned players.
The period between 2011 and 2014 saw champions from three new countries; Qatar, China PR and Australia, but the next three editions would see a bounce back of established powers with three different clubs lifting their second AFC Champions League trophy between 2015 and 2017.
Revealed: The AFC Cup All-time XI, as voted by you!
Kuala Lumpur: The unstoppable strikers, the impassable defenders and the impossible talents - in the eyes of Asia’s fans, they are the outstanding players in AFC Cup history .
Over the last six weeks football watchers in their tens of thousands have cast their votes for more than 60 shortlisted players from Asia and beyond, and in every position.
The result is today’s AFC All-time XI – A celebration of the greats who have graced the tournament since its inception in 2004, collecting 10 winners’ medals and scoring over 130 AFC Cup goals between them.
There are legends everywhere you look, so join the-AFC.com in paying tribute to the achievements of our Dream Team, while possibly lamenting the fact that they’ll never play together in a real match.
Sam Kerr, Wataru Endo, Amir Abedzaeh and more: Vote for your AFC International Player of the Week!
Kuala Lumpur: An extended international window has come and gone, and several of Asia’s stars wasted no time showing their class for a range of clubs outside the continent.
With an Australian hat-trick in England, Iranian goalkeeping heroics in Portugal and a Japanese double act in Belgium just a sample of the memorable contributions, there are several worthy candidates for this week’s crown.
But who was the week’s outstanding Asian player abroad? We’ve narrowed it down to a 10-player shortlist, based on performances from April 1 to 7.
Take a look at the nominees below and don’t forget to cast your vote.