Kuala Lumpur: After the 2020 edition of the AFC Cup kicked off but was eventually cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the continental competition is set to return with the group stage of the Central Zone kicking off on Friday.
As anticipation builds towards what will be an expanded tournament featuring 10 groups, the-AFC.com looks at some of the key numbers from years gone by.
Dushanbe: The AFC Cup is back and bigger than ever, particularly in the Central Zone where seven clubs across two groups are set to battle for regional supremacy.
In the Dushanbe-based Group F, Uzbekistan’s Nasaf return for the first time since becoming the competition’s only Central Asian champions a decade ago, while FC Khujand, FC Alay and Altyn Asyr will continue their search for a continental breakthrough.
So, who are the stars, what are their stories and who is likely to join the winners of Group G in the knockout stage? Join the-AFC.com as we analyse the contenders.
Kuala Lumpur: For the first time in a decade, 2011 AFC Cup winners FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan will return to the continental competition on Friday for a "title defence" 10 years in the making.
When the 2021 AFC Cup Group Stage draw was made on January 27, one of the biggest names among the contenders was a side that had not been seen in the tournament for many years, the 2011 champions FC Nasaf.
After a dominant campaign that saw them go all the way, the Central Asians have never had the opportunity to defend their crown, competing in the AFC Champions League in subsequent seasons.
The-AFC.com celebrates FC Nasaf's return following the decade-long absence by reviewing the side's highs and lows in the intervening years.
Sam Kerr, Mehdi Taremi, Son Heung-min and more: Vote for your AFC International Player of the Week!
Kuala Lumpur: League titles, hat-tricks and match-winning performances were on the menu as Asia’s overseas stars had another standout week outside the continent.
Sam Kerr sealed team and individual honours for Chelsea, Mehdi Taremi continued his brilliant debut season for Porto, while even a Tottenham defeat couldn’t prevent Son Heung-min from starring in the Premier League.
There were also dazzling displays from players in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Romania and Kazakhstan, but who was the week’s outstanding performer?
Study the contenders, based on performances from May 5 to 11, and cast your vote!