Today, Monday, the group stage of the 21st edition of the AFC Champions League 2023-2024 begins with the holding of 6 matches for the West of the continent in the tournament that will be held from September 2023 to May 2024, with the participation of 40 clubs divided into 10 groups.
For the first time in Asian club competitions, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system will be applied from the group stage, expanding from the 2022 edition, which included the application of this technology starting from the round of 16 until the final.
The first match of the 2023/24 season will be held tomorrow in western India, where the Mumbai City team, “last year’s runner-up in its first appearance in the tournament,” will welcome its Iranian counterpart, Nasaji Mazandaran, for the fourth group, at the Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex.
In the other match of the group, Al-Hilal Saudi Arabia, “the runner-up of the last edition,” will begin its journey when it meets in Riyadh with its Uzbek counterpart, Navbahor, seeking to obtain a fifth continental title. On the other hand, the runner-up of the 2022 Uzbek Premier League became the last of the eight clubs that participated for the first time and qualified for the 2022 Uzbek Premier League. Group stage, making it the 159th club in the history of the AFC Champions League.
In the second group, Jordanian Al-Faisaly, “champion of the Jordanian Professional League,” will play at home with the 2022 Uzbekistan Cup champion Nassaf team, which is present for the sixth time, and will seek to benefit from its exit from the round of 16 in 2022, which was also the first time it qualified for the second round.
At Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in the Qatari capital, Doha, Al Sadd, the “2011 champion,” is looking forward to making up for its exit from the group stage in the past two editions when it meets its counterpart, the Emirati club Sharjah, which in turn is participating for the fifth time, and this time it needed to win two qualifying matches to qualify for the group stage.
Al-Ittihad team, the “Saudi League champion,” begins its 12th participation in the competition and the first since 2019. It was crowned with the Asian title in 2004 and 2005, making it the only team to win the AFC Champions League title twice in a row, as its first match will be hosted by King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah. For the third group against the Uzbek team Agmak, which made its debut in 2021 and won two qualifying matches to book its place in the group stage.
In the other confrontation within the same group, the Air Force team seeks to exceed the group stage for the first time in its sixth appearance, when it hosts the Iranian Sepahan team, “runner-up of the AFC Champions League in 2007,” at home at Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil.
In the first group, the Uzbek Pakhtakor team seeks to achieve its first continental title, after twice reaching the semi-finals (2004, 2005), where it will meet at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent the day after tomorrow with its Emirati counterpart Al Ain, champion of the 2003 edition.
In the second confrontation of the group and on the same day, the Turkmen Ahal team will meet at Ashgabat Stadium against the newcomer Al-Fayhaa of Saudi Arabia, which deprived Al-Hilal of a local double by winning the 2021/22 King’s Cup.
The Saudi Al-Nasr team, which reached the semi-finals in 2020 and 2021, and is present for the seventh time after a playoff match, will begin its journey in the competition when it faces, at the Azadi Stadium in the Iranian capital, Tehran, its Iranian counterpart, Persepolis, “runner-up twice in 2018 and 2020,” who is participating for the 11th time. In the AFC Champions League.
Meanwhile, Al-Istiqlal Club faces the only Tajik team that has ever appeared in the AFC Champions League (participated in 2021), at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, against its Qatari counterpart, Al-Duhail, which in turn reached the semi-finals in 2022, and aims to reach its first ever final. Historically.
Competitions for clubs in East Asia begin the day after tomorrow with a confrontation in Group G between Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and South Korea’s Incheon United, at the Yokohama International Stadium in Japan. China’s Shandong Taishan will also travel to the Philippine capital, Manila, specifically at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, to meet Kaya FC. Iloilo, which made its debut in the competition in 2021. He is participating directly for the second time after winning his first title in the Philippine Football League in 2022/23.
The Ulsan Hyundai team is participating in the competition in the ninth group as the champion of the Korean League, and it is the winner of the AFC Champions League twice (2012, 2020), to face the Thai team PG Pathum United in its home stadium in Ulsan, which appears for the third time in a row after 2021, after winning the qualifying playoff match. , seeking to improve his position in the quarter-finals of 2022.
For the same group, there is the Johor Darul Ta’zim team, which is the only Malaysian team to have ever qualified for the AFC Champions League, and it will face its Japanese counterpart, Kawasaki Frontale Stadium, on its home soil, “Sultan Ibrahim Stadium”, which qualified as runner-up in the 2022 league, and reached the quarter-finals three times (2007, 2009). 2019), and is participating in the competition for the tenth time.
The South Korean Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors team, which reached the semi-finals in 2022 and has won twice (2006 and 2016), will begin its campaign in Group F on September 20, by facing the Keichi team, winner of the 2022/23 Hong Kong Premier League, at the World Cup Stadium in Jeonju. In the other match for the same group, the Singaporean Lion City Sailors team, which appeared for the first time in 2022, will meet the Thai team Bangkok United, which is also present for the second time after the first in 2007 as the Bangkok University Club.
In Group Eight, the Thai team Buriram United is preparing for its eighth and first participation since 2019 when it meets at its home stadium the Chinese team Zhejiang, which appeared for the second time after its debut in 2011 as Hangzhou Greentown. It also meets the Melbourne City team, “the only representative of Australia in this edition.” At its home stadium, “Melbourne,” its counterpart is the Japanese club Ventforet Kofu, the 2022 Emperor’s Cup champion. It is the first team to participate for the first time at the continental level outside of the local first division league, becoming the 16th Japanese club in the history of the tournament.
Urawa Red Diamonds, the defending champions and winner of the AFC Champions League three times, will participate in Group 10, which is witnessing strong competition, as a team will meet at the Wuhan Sports Center in China with the Chinese Wuhan Three Towns FC, while it will face the Vietnamese Hanoi Club at My Dinh Stadium. Its counterpart is the South Korean team Pohang Steelers, which is the team that won the 2009 champions and was absent from the previous edition, in addition to losing the 2021 final.