Dubai: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and Al Wahda will get the UAE teams’ campaign under way with the Asian Champions League scheduled to resume in two regional hubs in September and October.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), on Thursday announced a new format of play for the continental competition, and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and Al Wahda will be the first ones up against Iranian teams Shahr Khodro 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 that are yet to be confirmed.
While group matches will be played in full in a round-robin format as originally planned, fixtures in the latter stages of the tournament from the round of 16 onwards will be single knockout matches rather than the usual two-legged format.
The AFC has adopted a centralised venue for all preliminary matches from four groups of the West zone from September 14 to 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 for the top with Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia with four points apiece, while Esteghlal (Iran) and Al Shorta (Iran) are with one point each. Al Wahda drew 1-1 with Al Ahli and then squeezed past Al Shorta 1-0.
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 on September 20 and against Al Shorta on September 23.
In Group B, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai are yet to open their account following identical 2-1 losses to Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan) and Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal — both teams tied at the top with six points apiece. Shahr Khodro of Iran too are yet to win a point.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai will open against Shahr Khodro on September 14 before playing them a second time three days later. The Dubai side will be back in action against Pakhtakor on September 20, before signing off against Al Hilal on September 23.
The campaign for league champions Sharjah will commence in Group C as they take on Al Duhail of 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.
Having lost 1-0 away to Al Taawoun, Sharjah have just one point following their 2-2 draw at home against Persepolis. Al Taawoun are at the top of the group with six points, while Al Duhail are second with three points and Persepolis with a single point.
Former Asian champions Al Ain are not in the best of positions in Group D having lost both their games against Al Nasr (Saudi Arabia) and Sepahan (Iran). Al Sadd (Qatar) and Al Nasr (Saudi Arabia) are tied for the top spot with four points each, while Sepahan have three points following their 4-0 thrashing of Al Ain to open their campaign.
Al Ain will open against Al Sadd on September 15, before playing the Qataris again three days later. On September 21, Al Ain will take on Sepahan and then sign off against Al Sadd on September 24.
Meanwhile, the AFC Cup, the competition for more minor football playing nations in the continent, will also resume in centralised venues in East and West Asia starting in late October with a one-off final scheduled for December 12.
September 14: Al Wahda, UAE v Esteghlal, Iran; Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia v Al Shorta, Iraq
September 17: Al Shorta, Iraq v Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia; Esteghlal, Iran v Al Wahda, UAE
September 20: Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia v Al Wahda, UAE; Esteghlal, Iran v Al Shorta, Iraq
September 23: Al Wahda, UAE v Al Shorta, Iraq; Esteghlal, Iran v Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia
September 14: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, UAE v Shahr Khodro, Iran; Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia v Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan
September 17: Shahr Khodro, Iran v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, UAE; Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan v Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia
September 20: Shahr Khodro, Iran v Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia; Shabab Al Ahli Dubai v Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan
September 23: Al Hilal, Saudi Arabia v Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, UAE; Shahr Khodro, Iran v Pakhtakor, Uzbekistan
September 15: Persepolis, Iran v Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia; Al Duhail, Qatar v Sharjah, UAE
September 18: Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia v Persepolis, Iran; Sharjah, UAE v Al Duhail, Qatar
September 21: Persepolis, Iran v Al Duhail, Qatar; Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia v Sharjah, UAE
September 24: Al Duhail, Qatar v Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia; Persepolis, Iran v Sharjah, UAE
September 15: Al Ain, UAE v Al Sadd, Qatar; Sepahan, Iran v Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia
September 18: Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia v Sepahan, Iran; Al Sadd, Qatar v Al Ain, UAE
September 21: Sepahan, Iran v Al Ain, UAE; Al Sadd, Qatar v Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia
September 24: Sepahan, Iran v Al Sadd, Qatar; Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia v Al Ain, UAE