Reigning QNB Stars League (QSL) champions Al Sadd will face Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in the group stage when they aim for their second AFC Champions League title next year.
The draw ceremony for the 2020 edition of the continental event was held yesterday at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur with Xavi Hernandez’s ‘Wolves’ placed in Group D, which also has Iran’s Sepahan FC.
The winner of a play-off will also join the group.
A total of 32 Asian clubs will compete for the AFC Champions League 2020 title, with the group stage divided into the East and West Zones.
The season will begin with the preliminary stage on January 14 with the two-leg final scheduled for Nov 22 and 28.
AFC Champions League 2011 winners, Al Sadd reached the semi-final this season where they were defeated by eventual winners Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia. Xavi’s side defeated Al Nassr 4-3 on aggregate in the quarter-final of the same edition.
“It’s a balanced group and all the teams are tough,” Abdullah Al Breik, Director of Al Sadd Football, said yesterday.
“We have a very good side with experienced players and I am hopeful, the team will achieve good results. Al Sadd have shown very good performance in the past two editions by reaching the semi-finals. Our focus now is on the FIFA Club World Cup,” said Al Breik whose team will take on Hienghene Sport in the opening match of the seven-team FIFA Club World Cup today at their home turf.
Apart from Al Sadd, Al Duhail will also start their campaign in group stage while debutants Al Sailiya along with Al Rayyan will appear in play-off phase of the competition.
Al Duhail, coached by Rui Faria, are in Group C along with Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun, the UAE’s Sharjah FC and Iran’s Persepolis.
“We are in a balanced group and we will require a lot of hardwork to get good results in this group,” Al Duhail Manager Ismail Ahmed said.
“We will enter the tournament well prepared with the target of reaching new heights in the tournament. We have a very hard working team of players, coaches and officials, and we are confident of doing well,” he added.
Meanwhile, Al Rayyan will battle in the play-off stage with prospects of joining Group A that includes Iraq’s Al Shorta, the UAE’s Al Wahda and Play-off winner (Saudi Arabia/Uzbekistan/Tajikistan), and if Al Sailiya are victorious in the preliminary stage, they will be in Group B in the company of reigning champions Al Hilal, the UAE’s Al Ahli and Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor.
Two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande of China PR were drawn in Group G with Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR), Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS) and the winner of a play-off. Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors – winners in 2006 and 2016 – will play in Group H with Japan’s Yokohama F.Marinos, Australia’s Sydney FC and a play-off winner while Ulsan Hyundai FC, champions in 2012, were drawn with Shanghai Shenhua FC (CHN), Perth Glory (AUS) and a play-off winner in Group F.