Indian Super League (ISL) outfit FC Goa have drawn a tough group in their AFC Champions League debut season. The draw for the 2021 AFC Champions League group stage was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday. (More Football News)
FC Goa were placed in Group E alongside Iranian league champions and 2020 runners-up Persepolis, Qatar Stars League runners-up Al Rayyan and playoff winners between UAE's Al-Wahda and Iraq's Al-Zawraa.
The Gaurs are the first-ever Indian club to qualify for the group stage of the ACL after they topped the ISL league stage last season.
The 2021 AFC Champions League will see 40 teams in the group stage - an increase of eight - with one additional group each in the East and West Zones. The tournament proper kicks off with the preliminary stage on April 7.
Iranian giants Persepolis have won the domestic league 13 times and have finished runners-up in the ACL twice -- in 2018 and 2020. They have entered the group stage of ACL as 2019–20 Persian Gulf Pro League champions.
Al Rayyan are also a powerhouse side of Qatar, having played in the ACL five times earlier -- 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. They have entered the group stage of ACL as 2019–20 Qatar Stars League runners-up.
The fourth side in Group E will the winner of the play-offs match between UAE's Al-Wahda FC and Iraq's Al-Zawraa SC.
Check all groups:
Group A: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Shabab Al Ahli (UAE), FC Istiklol (TJK), QAT-UZB P/O winner
Group B: Sharjah (UAE), Tractor FC (IRN), Pakhtakor (UZB), KSA-IRQ P/O winner
Group C: Al Duhail SC (QAT), Al Ahli Saudi (KSA), Esteghlal (IRN), Al Shorta (IRQ)
Group D: Al Sadd SC (QAT), Al Nassr (KSA), Al Wehdat (JOR), IRN-UAE P/O winner
Group E: Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Rayyan (QAT), FC Goa (IND), UAE-IRQ P/O winner
Group F: Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), BG Pathum United (THA), Viettel FC (VIE), AUS-PHI-CHN P/O winner
Group G: Jiangsu FC (CHN), Nagoya Grampus (JPN), Johor Darul Ta'zim (MAS), KOR-THA P/O winner.
Group H: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR), Gamba Osaka (JPN), Tampines Rovers (SIN), Sydney FC (AUS)
Group I: Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Guangzhou FC CHN), United City FC (PHI), KOR-THA P/O winner
Group J: Shandong Luneng FC (CHN), Port FC (THA), Kitchee SC (HKG), JPN-AUS-MYA P/O Winner
The winners of each of the 10 groups and three best runners-up from each region -- west and east -- advance to the round of 16 of the knockout stage.
Groups A to E make up the west region, while Groups F to J comprise the east region.
The league kicks off with the preliminary stage on April 7. The group stage matches will be held from April 14 to 30 for West Zone (Groups A to E) and from April 21 to May 7 for East Zone (Group F to J) and will be played in centralised venues.
The knockout matches in the Round of 16 are scheduled for September 13-15 and the quarter-finals on September 27-29. Both rounds will be played as single matches. The semi-finals will be over two legs on October 19-20 and 26-27.
The two-leg final will be held on November 21 and 27.
The detailed fixture and the centralised venues will be announced later. Bidding invitations and other hosting details will be circulated to participating member associations, the AFC said.