Shabab Al Ahli Dubai beat Hatta 1-0 in the AGL
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club (pictured) will be one of the four clubs which have been scheduled to travel to Qatar to play their AFC Champions League matches. Image Credit: AGL

Dubai: Sharjah, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, Al Ain and Al Wahda will all have to make a short trip to neighbouring Qatar to play their preliminary round West Asia matches of the 2020 AFC Champions League later this summer.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Thursday announced that the Qatar Football Association (QFA) has been confirmed as the host member association for the 2020 AFC Champions League matches for West Asia. The group stage matches will commence on September 14 and proceed till the semi-finals on October 3.

The AFC had earlier reiterated its commitment to complete the 2020 AFC club competitions in a centralised venue with all matches in the group stages for both the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup to be played in full and the knock-out stages consisting of single match ties. The deadline for bids to host the centralised AFC Champions League West region matches was July 13.

Last week, the AFC had announced a new format of play for the continental competition with Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and Al Wahda among the first ones up against Iranian teams Shahr Kodro and Esteghlal, respectively, on September 14.

The continent’s elite club competition, which was suspended in early March following the coronavirus outbreak, will resume first in West Asia on September 14 and in East Asia on October 16 at centralised venues.

Supporters of Al Ain Club, former AFC Champions League winners, will look forward to the club trying to bring back their glory days in the continental competition. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The AFC has adopted a centralised venue for all preliminary matches from four groups of the West zone from September 14-24, followed by the knockout stages from the Round of 16 stages onwards between September 26 to October 3.

The preliminary group matches for the East Asian zone will be held from October 16 to November 1 followed by the Round of 16 knockouts on November 3-4 and the quarter-finals and semi-final on November 25 and 28, respectively. The winners of the two zones will meet in a one-off final at a venue in West Asia on December 5.

In Group A, Al Wahda are tied at the top with Saudi side Al Ahli with four points apiece, while Esteghlal of Iran and Al Shorta, Iraq are with one point each. Al Wahda will open against Esteghlal on September 14 and then play in the return round three days later. Al Wahda’s next two matches will be against Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia on September 20 and against Al Shorta, Iraq on September 23.

In Group B, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai are yet to secure a point after losing 1-2 against Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal. Shahr Khodro of Iran too are yet to win a point.

Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will open against Shahr Khodro, Iran on September 14 before playing them a second time three days later. The Dubai side will be back in action against Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan on September 20, before signing off against Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia on September 23.

In Group C, league champions Sharjah – who have just one point from two games - will start against Al Duhail, Qatar on September 15, before playing the return leg three days later. On September 21, Sharjah will take on Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia before their last group match against Persepolis, Iran on September 24.

Former Asian champions Al Ain – also yet to win a point – will begin against Qatar’s Al Sadd before their return leg three days later. On September 21, Al Ain will take on Sepahan, Iran and then sign off against Al Sadd, Qatar on September 24.