Shabab Al Ahli drawn in tough group with holders Al Hilal - GulfToday

Shabab Al Ahli drawn in tough group with holders Al Hilal


AFC national team competitions director Shin Man Gil shows the draw for Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal during the 2020 AFC Champions League official draw for group stages on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

Defending champions Al Hilal were on Tuesday drawn against UAE’s Shabab Al Ahli and Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor for the start of their campaign for a record fourth Asian club title in the AFC Champions League.

The Saudi giants beat Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds last month, ending a 19-year wait for their third continental trophy and joining South Korea’s Pohang Steelers as the only three-time Asian champions.

They also became the competition’s first West Asian winners since Qatar’s Al Sadd in 2011, torpedoing a run of victories by clubs from Japan, South Korea, China and Australia.

Two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande of China, who won the Chinese Super League title this month, will face South Korean side Suwon Samsung Bluewings after being drawn in the same group at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors, who have also clinched the title twice, will face Yokohama Marinos of Japan and Australia’s Sydney FC.

Ulsan Hyundai, champions in 2012, were drawn with Shanghai Shenhua from China and Australian side Perth Glory.

“It is quite an evenly balanced” draw, AFC general secretary Windsor John told AFP. “We look forward to another thrilling campaign.”

The 2020 season begins with the preliminary stage in January, with the two-leg final scheduled for November. The AFC Champions League will feature 32 teams in 2020 for the final time, with the tournament set to expand to 40 sides from 2021.

Meanwhile, after nearly four million votes, the best goal of the 2019 AFC Champions League has been decided with Shojae Khalilzadeh’s incredible scissor kick for Persepolis against Shabab Al Ahli named the winning effort following the public poll on

Ten fantastic goals were nominated that spanned the Continent from Uzbekistan to Urawa, but it was Persepolis’ defender Khalilzadeh whose amazing acrobatics that captured the attention and favour of Asia’s football fans. The Iranian had previously won Goal of the Week for Matchday Three and Goal of the Group Stage, and so completes his hat-trick with the overall best goal of the 2019 AFC Champions League.

Johor Darul Ta’zim forward Safawi Rasid ran Khalilzadeh close but ultimately finished in second with Al Ittihad’s Romarinho in third.

Khalilzadeh spoke exclusively to after the poll concluded.

“It was easily the best goal of my career because I scored it for the best club in the world, Persepolis,” he said.

“I would like to thank all the fans who voted for me to win. It means a lot to me for my goal to be voted best in the 2019 AFC Champions League and to be recognized by the AFC. Once again, I would like to thank the fans for all their support and love.”

While the 30-year-old and his teammates were eliminated at the Group Stage in this year’s competition, Iran 2018-19 league champions will have a chance to go again as they enter the draw on Tuesday for the 2020 edition.

AFC Champions League draw

Group A
Al Wahda FSCC (UAE)
Al Shorta (IRQ)
Play-off winner (QAT/IRN/JOR/KUW)
Play-off winner (KSA/UZB/TJK)

Group B
Al Hilal SFC (KSA)
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE)
Pakhtakor (UZB)
Play-off winner (QAT/IRN/IND/BHR)

Group C
Al Duhail SC (QAT)
Al Taawoun FC (KSA)
Sharjah FC (UAE)
Persepolis FC (IRN)

Group D
Sepahan FC (IRN)
Al Sadd SC (QAT)
Al Nassr (KSA)
Play-off 1 winner (UAE/UZB/IRQ)


Group E
Beijing FC (CHN)
Chiangrai United FC (THA)
Play-off winner (JPN/AUS/SIN/IDN)
Play-off winner (KOR/MAS/HKG)

Group F
Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR)
Shanghai Shenhua FC (CHN)
Perth Glory (AUS)
Play-off winner (JPN/THA/PHI/MYA)

Group G
Japan 2nd Club (JPN)
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR)
Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN)
Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS)

Group H
Sydney FC (AUS)
Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN)
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR)
Play-off winner (CHN/THA/VIE)

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