AFC Champions League: Lowdown on UAE clubs as Asia tournament finally gets under way

Shabab Al Ahli, Sharjah and Al Wahda will represent the country in group stages

Sharjah, in white, will host Asian Champions League Group B matches, the Asian Football Confederation has confirmed. Courtesy UAE FA
Sharjah, in white, will host Asian Champions League Group B matches, the Asian Football Confederation has confirmed. Courtesy UAE FA

The delayed 2021 Asian Champions League group stages get under way – finally – on Wednesday, with three UAE entrants. Here are the details.

Postponed pools

Typically, the Champions League groups kick off in February, but the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic forced a rescheduling. The West Asian section (Groups A-E) begins this week, although the East Asian zone does not start until June or July. Asia’s premier club competition is divided between the East and West zones right up until the final. For the first time, the group stage features 40 clubs – an increase from the traditional 32. The UAE’s three participants comprise Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Sharjah and Al Wahda. Al Ain, the only Emirati winners of the trophy, missed out on the groups by losing a play-off on Saturday against Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan.

Centralised venues

Given travel restriction implemented because of the pandemic, the decision was taken earlier this year to hold each group in one host city. Therefore, Dubai’s Shabab Al Ahli will play all their Group A matches in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi side Al Wahda have travelled to Goa for their Group G campaign, and Sharjah stages Group B. All matches span a 16-day period this month. The winners of each group and the three best runners-up from each region advance to the knockouts, entering at the last-16 stage. That phase is slated for September. Teams play their group rivals twice.

Fixtures – West region

Matchday 1 – April 14/15

Matchday 2 – April 17/18

Matchday 3 – April 20/21

Matchday 4 – April 23/24

Matchday 5 – April 26/27

Matchday 6 – April 29/30

Groups featuring UAE clubs:

Group A

Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) – 1991, 2000 and 2019 winners

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE) – 2015 runners-up

FC Istiklol (Tajikistan) - debutants

FC AGMK (Uzbekistan) - debutants

Venues: King Fahd International Stadium, Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium, Saudi Arabia

Group B

Sharjah (UAE) – 2004 quarter-finals

FC Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) – 2003 and 2004 semi-finals

FC Tractor (Iran) – 2016 last 16

Air Force Club (Iraq) – 3 x Group Stages

Venue: Sharjah Stadium, UAE

Group E

FC Goa (India) - debutants

Persepolis (Iran) – 2018 and 2020 runners-up

Al Rayyan (Qatar) – 5 x Group Stages

Al Wahda (UAE) – 2007 semi-finals

Venue: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi, India

Updated: April 14, 2021 03:52 PM

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