AFC Champions League Draw: FC Goa drawn with Persepolis for group stage

FC Goa had become the first Indian club to directly qualify for the group stage of the ACL by virtue of finishing on top of the points table at the end of the league phase.

The AFC Champions League kicks off with the preliminary stage on April 7; the two-leg final will be held on November 21 and 27.   -  Getty Images

Indian Super League team FC Goa was on Wednesday clubbed with the last edition's runners-up Persepolis FC of Iran, Qatari heavyweights Al Rayyan SC and one yet-to-qualify side in Group E in the prestigious AFC Champions League (ACL).

The group stage draw of the continent's top-tier league involving 40 teams was held online in Kuala Lumpur. This season's AFC Champions League is the biggest ever in history as it was a 32-team affair last time around.

FC Goa had become the first Indian club to directly qualify for the group stage of the ACL by virtue of finishing on top of the points table at the end of the league phase.

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Iranian giants Persepolis has won the domestic league 13 times and has finished runner-up in the ACL twice -- in 2018 and 2020. It has entered the group stage of ACL as 2019–20 Persian Gulf Pro League champion.

Al Rayyan is also a powerhouse side of Qatar, having played in the ACL five times earlier -- 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. It has entered the group stage of ACL as 2019–20 Qatar Stars League runner-up.

The fourth side in Group E will the winner of the play-offs match between UAE's Al-Wahda FC and Iraq's Al-Zawraa SC.

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The winner side of each of the 10 groups and three best runners-up from each region -- west and east -- advance to the round of 16 of the knockout stage. Groups A to E make up west region while Groups F to J comprise east region.

The league kicks off with the preliminary stage on April 7. The group stage matches will be held from April 14 to 30 for West Zone (Groups A to E) and from April 21 to May 7 for East Zone (Group F to J) and will be played in centralised venues.

The knockout matches in the Round of 16 are scheduled for September 13-15 and the quarterfinals on September 27-29. Both rounds will be played as single matches. The semifinals will be over two legs on October 19-20 and 26-27.

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The two-leg final will be held on November 21 and 27.

The detailed fixture and the centralised venues will be announced later.

Bidding invitations and other hosting details will be circulated to participating member associations, the AFC said.

-ATK Mohun Bagan clubbed with Bangladesh and Maldives sides-

ISL's ATK Mohun Bagan was clubbed with Bangladesh's Basundhara Kings, Maldives' Maziya S&RC and one yet-to-qualify side in the Group D.

Fellow ISL side Bengaluru FC could be the yet-to-qualify side as it face the winner of the play-off preliminary round one clash between Nepal Army Club and Sri Lanka Police in the preliminary round two on April 14.

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ATK Mohun Bagan took Mohun Bagan's AFC Cup group stage slot which it earned as I-League winners last season.

As a result the qualifying preliminary round two slot which was kept for the champions of ISL champions -- that is ATK -- went to Bengaluru FC, the third-place finisher in the league phase of the ISL 2019-20 season.

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