Dubai: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will join three teams from Saudi Arabia, two from Iran and one each from Uzbekistan and Qatar as the last 16 for the 2020 AFC Champions League (West Zone) gets under way in Doha on Saturday.
Qualifying to the continental competition after ending runners-up in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) last season, Shabab are the only team from the UAE left in the knockout stages of the competition.
Al Wahda pulled out of the Champions League just prior to their departure to Qatar earlier this month after a few staff members had tested positive for coronavirus. Former Asian champions Al Ain finished at the bottom of Group D with just two points, while AGL champions Sharjah crashed to a 4-0 loss to Persepolis in their last Group C match on Thursday, blowing their chances of advancing to the knockout stages.
- Photos: Tadej Pogacar crushes Primoz Roglic to seal Tour de France title
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings in pictures
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Fans in Dubai enjoy opener between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings
- IPL 2020 in UAE: Cool runnings from Delhi Capitals and Kings XI Punjab
Runners-up in the 2015 Champions League, Shabab will face Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia in their round-of-16 match at the Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday, after Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan takes on Iran’s Esteghlal in the other match of the night.
Shabab ended their preliminary round matches as Group B runners-up with seven points, while Pakhtakor topped the group with 10 points following three wins and a draw.
It was a twist of luck for Shabab Al Ahli Dubai after Saudi Arabia’s defending champions Al Hilal had to pull out of the competition with some members testing positive for COVID-19 late on Wednesday.
As per regulations laid down for the AFC competition, the club failed to name the required 13 players for their match against the team from the UAE, and the governing body ruled that the defending champions’ request for a postponement could not be entertained.
Established in 1958, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai charted their best performance in the continental clubs’ competition after reaching the final of the 2015 Champions League final, where they lost by a solitary goal to Guangzhou Evergrande.
Domestically, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have won seven league titles, a record of nine UAE’s President Cup titles, four UAE Super Cup titles and four UAE League Cup titles making them the second most successful team in the country. Existing as Al Ahli, the club merged with Al Shabab and Dubai Club in 2017.
The West Zone quarter-finals will be played on September 30 and the semi-final on October 3 after which the winner will await the East Zone champion for the one-off 2020 AFC Champions League Final scheduled for December 19.
Earlier this month, the AFC had postponed the East Zone preliminary round matches to be played starting on November 15.
Al Ahli (Saudi Arabia) v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE)
Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) v Esteghlal (Iran)
Persepolis (Iran) v Al Sadd (Qatar)
Al Nassr (Saudi Arabia) v Al Taawoun (Saudi Arabia)