2021 AFC Champions League Draw Presents Intriguing Groups

Ulsan Hyundai FC will begin the defence of their title in Group F following the conclusion of the draw for the 2021 AFC Champions League in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday.

The 2021 AFC Champions League will see 40 teams in the group stage – an increase of eight – with one additional group each in the East and West Zones.

Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai, who defeated Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis FC in the 2020 final to lift the AFC Champions League trophy for the second time, will have Thailand’s BG Pathum United, Vietnam’s Viettel FC and a playoff winner for company in Group F.

Persepolis, also runners-up in 2018, were drawn with Al Rayyan of Qatar, India’s FC Goa and a playoff winner in Group E.

The draw, conducted virtually and streamed live, saw 2019 champions Al Hilal SFC of Saudi Arabia, Shabab Al Ahli of UAE, FC Istiklol of Tajikistan and a playoff winner drawn in Group A.

Group B comprises UAE’s Sharjah, Iran’s Tractor FC, Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and a playoff winner while Group C will see Qatar’s Al Duhail SC, Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli Saudi, Esteghlal of Iran and Al Shorta of Iraq bidding to advance to the Round of 16.

Qatar’s Al Sadd SC, Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, Al Wehdat of Jordan and a playoff winner were drawn in Group D.

Group G comprises Jiangsu FC of China PR, Japan’s Nagoya Grampus, Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim and a playoff winner.

Two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of Korea Republic, Japan’s Gamba Osaka, Tampines Rovers of Singapore and Australia’s Sydney FC were drawn in Group H with Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, two-time champions Guangzhou FC of China, United City FC of Philippines and a playoff winner the teams in Group I.

China’s Shandong Luneng FC, Port FC of Thailand, Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC and a playoff winner were drawn in Group J to complete the East Zone section of the draw.

The 2021 AFC Champions League kicks off with the preliminary stage on April 7 with the group stage – which kicks off on April 14 – to be played in centralised venues.

2021 AFC Champions League Group Stage Draw

Group A: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Shabab Al Ahli (UAE), FC Istiklol (TJK), QAT-UZB P/O winner
Group B: Sharjah (UAE), Tractor FC (IRN), Pakhtakor (UZB), KSA-IRQ P/O winner
Group C: Al Duhail SC (QAT), Al Ahli Saudi (KSA), Esteghlal (IRN), Al Shorta (IRQ)
Group D: Al Sadd SC (QAT), Al Nassr (KSA), Al Wehdat (JOR), IRN-UAE P/O winner
Group E: Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Rayyan (QAT), FC Goa (IND), UAE-IRQ P/O winner
Group F: Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), BG Pathum United (THA), Viettel FC (VIE), AUS-PHI-CHN P/O winner
Group G: Jiangsu FC (CHN), Nagoya Grampus (JPN), Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS), KOR-THA P/O winner.
Group H: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR), Gamba Osaka (JPN), Tampines Rovers (SIN), Sydney FC (AUS)
Group I: Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Guangzhou FC CHN), United City FC (PHI), KOR-THA P/O winner
Group J: Shandong Luneng FC (CHN), Port FC (THA), Kitchee SC (HKG), JPN-AUS-MYA P/O Winner

AFC Club Competitions’ Group Stages to be played in centralised venues

The biggest-ever Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League and the expanded AFC Cup will be played in centralised group stages in the 2021 season. The AFC Champions League will be held in the West and East Regions while the AFC Cup will be staged across the five AFC Zones.

With the continued support of the Member Associations and participating clubs, the AFC has agreed that the AFC Champions League Group Stage West Region matches will be scheduled between April 14-30 while the East Region are planned for April 21-May 7, 2021.

Similarly, the centralised AFC Cup Group Stage will kick off in the South, Central and East Zones on May 14 before the West Zone commences on May 23, with the ASEAN Zone scheduled to take place from June 22-28. Each team in this year’s AFC Cup Group Stage will compete in a single match round-robin format.

The AFC Champions League 2021 knockout matches in the Round of 16 are scheduled for September 13-15 and the Quarter-finals on September 27-29. Both rounds will be played as single matches. The AFC Champions League Semi-finals will be over two legs on October 19-20 and 26-27.

Meanwhile, the AFC Cup 2021 West Zonal Semi-finals will be held on September 13 – 14 with the second-leg scheduled to take place two weeks later. The ASEAN Zonal Semi-finals will take place on Aug 10 – 11 over a single leg.

The two-legged Zonal final involving South, Central and East clubs is scheduled for August 11 and 25, with the ASEAN single-leg Zonal final planned for August 25, before the two-legged West Zonal Final takes place on Oct 20 and Nov 3.

The two-legged Inter-zonal Semi-Finals is scheduled for Sept 14-15 and 28-29 with the Inter-zonal Final to be staged on Oct 20 and November 3.

The AFC Champions League, which will feature 40 teams for the first time in history, will reach its grand finale with the two-leg Final on November 21 and 27, while the AFC Cup Final will take place on November 26.

Dato’ Windsor John, the AFC General Secretary, said: “The AFC is most grateful for the support of the AFC Competitions Committee, the Member Associations and the participating clubs in producing this schedule for the biggest and most inclusive AFC Champions League and AFC Cup in history.

“Once again, the AFC will put the safety and welfare of all its stakeholders as its overriding priority, but we demonstrated with the successful AFC Champions League in 2020 that the unity, solidarity and strong leadership of the AFC can deliver its club competitions in the most challenging of times.”

Bidding invitations and other hosting details will be circulated to Participating Member Associations after the AFC Cup and AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage draws which will take place on January 27, 2021.

Watch the AFC Cup 2021 Group Stage Draw at 2:30pm (+8GMT) here followed by the AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage Draw at 4:30pm here.

The full schedules for the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup 2021 are as follows:

2021 AFC Champions League Draw To Be Live Streamed

Asian club football looks set to usher in a new era with its biggest-ever season as the attention shifts towards the Group Stage draws for this year’s AFC Cup and AFC Champions League, which is scheduled to take place in a virtual ceremony on January 27, 2021 in Malaysia at 2:30pm and 4:30pm (local time) respectively.

Both club competitions will see a record number of clubs compete in 2021, with two additional groups – one each for the East and West Regions – included in this season’s AFC Champions League Group Stage, which has expanded from 32 to 40 clubs.

Similarly, the number of clubs in the 2021 Group Stage of the ever-growing AFC Cup may rise to 39 clubs from 36 in the last edition in 2019, with a newly-introduced Group for the Central Zone.

Among the clubs poised to make their Group Stage debut in the AFC Champions League are newly-crowned Jordanian Pro League champions Al Wehdat, India’s FC Goa and two-time AFC Cup runners-up FC Istiklol from Tajikistan from the West Region as well as United City FC from the Philippines, Tampines Rovers from Singapore and Vietnam’s Viettel FC from the East Region.

Inspired by their AFC Champions League 2020 triumph last month, Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai, who will be aiming to become the first side in the modern era to defend their crown since Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad, have been drawn in Pot 2 while their opponents in the 2020 Final and reigning Iranian Pro League champions Persepolis FC have been drawn in Pot 1.

Meanwhile, the stakes for the upcoming edition of the AFC Cup have been raised even higher with this season’s winners guaranteed an opportunity to qualify for the preliminary stage of the 2022 AFC Champions League.

Watch the AFC Cup 2021 Group Stage Draw at 2:30pm here followed by the AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage Draw at 4:30pm here.