AFC Champions League draw

Al-Nasr Saudi Arabia, seeking to win the first title in its history led by its Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, signed in a strong group in the AFC Champions League, with Al-Duhail of Qatar, Iranian Persepolis and Tajikistani’s Independence, according to the draw that was drawn today, Thursday, in Kuala Lumpur.

In addition to Ronaldo, the best player in the world 5 times, coming last January with a huge deal, the “global” contracted with Senegalese striker Sadio Mane, Croatian midfielders Marcelo Brozovic and Ivory Coast Sico Fofana, Brazilian full-back Alex Telles and Portuguese midfielder Ottavio, and finally Spanish defender Emeric Laporte from Manchester City.

However, Al-Nasr escaped absence from the continental championship, after its late victory over Al-Ahly youth of the Emirates 4-2, after it was 1-2 behind two minutes before the end of the normal time in the qualifying supplement last Tuesday.

Al-Nasr started its season perfectly, as it won the Arab Clubs Championship at home, but it made a very bad start in the local league, losing the first two matches.

Al-Nasr’s most prominent participation in the tournament was in 1995, when he finished runner-up, and in 2020 and 2021, when he reached the semi-finals.

The capital team will face strong competition in Group E of Persepolis, the summer runners-up of 2018 and 2020, and Al Duhail, participating for the 11th time in the tournament and looking to pass the quarter-finals for the first time in its history.

Easy set to crescent

As for Al-Hilal Saudi Arabia, the most successful Asian team by crowning it 4 times, the last of which was in 2019 and 2021, which signed with the Brazilian star Neymar, it fell into an easy fourth group on paper, along with the Iranian Mazandaran weavers who participated for the first time, the Indian Mumbai City and the Uzbekistani Navbakhor.

In addition to Neymar, the “leader” included the likes of Portuguese midfielders Robin Neves, Serbian Sergey Milinkovic Savic, his compatriot Alexander Mitrovic, Moroccan international goalkeeper Yassin Bono and Brazilian winger Malcolm.

Al-Ittihad will face the Saudi champion and the holder of the continental championship twice (2004 and 2005), led by its new French scorer Karim Benzema, the Iranian Sepahan and the summer of 2007, the Iraqi Air Force, the 3-time AFC Cup champion and the Uzbekistani “AGMC” in the third group.

The “general” strengthened its ranks with the other French defensive midfielder, Ngolo Kante, and the Brazilian midfielders Fabinho and the Portuguese Jota.

As for the fourth Saudi club, Al-Fayhaa, who participated for the first time, it will meet in Group A Pakhtakor, the champion of Uzbekistan, who reached the semi-finals twice in 2003 and 2004, and is coached by the former top scorer for Ukrainian Dynamo Kiev, Maxim Shatskikh, and the people of Turkmenistan, who participated for the second time in succession, and Al-Ain UAE, the champion of the first edition of its modern system in 2004. 2003.

In the second group, the Qatari Al-Sadd, the 1989 and 2011 champions, signed with Nasaf of Uzbekistan, who participated for the fifth time, and Al-Faisaly of Jordan, the two-time AFC Cup champion, and Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates.

Changing the AFC Champions League system

The Japanese Urawa Red Diamonds won the title of the last edition at the expense of Al Hilal Saudi Arabia (1-1 and 1-0).

The 21st edition of the tournament, with its modern system, is witnessing the transition for the first time from the spring season to the fall, as its dates extend from September 2023 to May 2024.

The participating clubs were divided into 10 groups, West Asian clubs in groups from the first to the fifth, and the East clubs to the groups from the sixth to the tenth.

At the end of the group stage, the first-placed clubs in the ten groups qualify for the round of 16, along with the three best second-placed clubs in each region.

The knockout round competitions will be held from February to April 2024, with the final round matches taking place on May 11 and May 18, 2024.

West region draw:

Group A: Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al Fayhaa (Saudi Arabia), Ahal (Turkmenistan), Al Ain (UAE).

Group B: Al Sadd (Qatar), Nasaf (Uzbekistan), Al Faisaly (Jordan), Sharjah (UAE).

Group C: Al-Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Sepahan (Iran), Air Force (Iraq), AGMK (Uzbekistan).

Group D: Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Nasaji Mazandaran (Iran), Mumbai City (India), Nafbakhar. (Uzbekistan).

Group E: Persepolis (Iran), Al Duhail (Qatar), Esteghlal (Tajikistan), Al Nasr (Saudi Arabia).

East region draw:

Group F: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (South Korea), Bangkok United (Thailand), Lion City Sellers (Singapore), Kitchee (Hong Kong).

Group G: Yokohama Marinos (Japan), Shandong Taishan (China), Kaya Iloilo (Philippines), Incheon United (South Korea).

Group H: Buriram United (Thailand), Fanforet Kofu (Japan), Melbourne City (Australia), Zhejiang (China).

Group N: Ulsan Hyundai (South Korea), Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Johor Darul Azim (Malaysia), Batum United (Thailand).

Group X: Wuhan Three Towns (China), Pohang Steelers (South Korea), Hanoi (Vietnam), Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan).

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