0132 GMT May 09, 2021
The Persian Gulf Pro League champion Persepolis was pitted in Group E of the 2021 AFC Champions League (ACL) alongside Laurent Blanc’s Qatari side Al Rayyan – which has the former Reds’ defender Shoja Khalilzadeh at its disposal.
The draw for the expanded 40-team groups took place in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, on Wednesday, where Iranian clubs learned their fate in the upcoming Asian elite clubs competition.
Persepolis, two-time runner-up in the previous three seasons, will also play India's FC Goa and the winner of the playoff tie between Al Wahda of the UAE and Iraq’s Al Zawra.
Elsewhere, Reds’ archrival Esteghlal was drawn in probably the West zone’s group of death as Mahmoud Fekri’s side will have to square off against Qatari giant Al Duhail – with ex-Blues midfielder Ali Karimi in its ranks – last season’s quarterfinalist Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia, and Iraqi side Al Shorta in Group C.
The Hazfi Cup champion Tractor is in Group B and will take on the UAE’s Sharjah, Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan, and one of Iraq’s Air Force AC or Al Wehda of Saudi Arabia for a last-16 spot.
Should the southern Iranian side Foolad Khuzestan beat the Emirati club Al Ain in the April 7 playoff encounter, it will be put in Group D, which also includes Qatar’s Al Sadd, Saudi side Al Nassr, and Al Wehdat of Jordan.
The Asian football governing body also announced that the group games of the West region will get underway on April 14, running through April 30, while the East games will be played from April 21-May 7.
The first two rounds of the knockouts will be played through single-legged ties.
The last-16 round of the competition is scheduled for September 13-15, with the quarterfinals taking place on September 27-29.
The two legs of the last-four stage will be played on Oct. 19-20 and 26-27.
The two finalist will square off on November 21 before deciding the champion in the return leg six days later.