SPL giants Al Hilal drawn against Iran's Sepahan in last 16 of Asian Champions League

All-Saudi tie awaits Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr, while Al Ain travel to Uzbekistan to take on FC Nasaf

Al Hilal have been drawn against Sepahan of Iran in the last 16 of the Asian Champions League. Reuters
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Saudi Pro League leaders Al Hilal have been drawn against Iranian Pro League table toppers Sepahan in the last 16 of the AFC Asian Champions League.

Al Hilal, the four-time continental champions, have set a blistering pace at the top of the SPL and went unbeaten in their Champions League group, winning five of their six games to qualify in first place.

On Thursday they were handed a trip to Iran as the AFC draw took place in Kuala Lumpur, with them scheduled to play the first leg away from home in early February. The venue for that tie remains unclear, however, given the fallout from Sepahan's cancelled match against Hilal's SPL rivals Al Ittihad back in October.

The match was called off after Al Ittihad refused to play in the stadium in Isfahan as a statue of the late Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general Qassem Suleimani had been installed next to the pitch.

The AFC subsequently decided Sepahan had broken their rules regarding pictures and statues of a political nature and Ittihad were awarded a 3-0 win. The Iranian club was also fined $200,000 and banned from playing home matches in the 2023 Champions League at their stadium.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo and Al Nassr will have to navigate an all-SPL tie if they are to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. Nassr, who are seeking a maiden continental crown, will be considered strong favourites against Al Fayha, who they beat 3-1 in domestic action in October. Al Nassr are second in the table, 24 points and nine places ahead of Al Fayha, who are down in 11th.

Al Fayha qualified from Group A behind UAE side Al Ain, who have been rewarded with a last-16 tie against FC Nasaf from Uzbekistan. The Boss, who won the competition in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016, sit second in the UAE Pro League, five points adrift of leaders Al Wasl.

The final tie in the West section pits Karim Benzema and Al Ittihad against another Uzbek side in Navbahor.

AFC Champions League - Round of 16

First legs, Feb 12-14; Second legs, Feb 19-21

West section:

FC Nasaf (UZB) v Al Ain FC (UAE)

Al Fayha SC (KSA) v Al Nassr (KSA)

Sepahan SC (IRN) v Al Hilal SFC (KSA)

Navbahor (UZB) v Al Ittihad (KSA)

East section:

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR) v Pohang Steelers (KOR)

Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR) v Ventforet Kofu (JPN)

Shandong Taishan (CHN) v Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)

Bangkok United (THA) v Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN)

Updated: December 28, 2023, 11:47 AM