0218 GMT May 09, 2021
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Wednesday announced the full fixtures list of the upcoming AFC Champions League (ACL) season.
A compact schedule will see all teams conclude the group phase of the Asian elite club competition in the space of 16 days, starting April 14.
The Persian Gulf Pro League champion Persepolis, a two-time finalist in the previous three editions, will begin its Group E campaign against the winner of the playoff tie between Al Wahda of the UAE and Iraq’s Al Zawra.
Yahya Golmohammadi’s men will then take on Laurent Blanc’s Qatari side Al Rayyan – which has the former Reds’ defender Shoja Khalilzadeh at its disposal – and Indian club FC Goa – with three days between each game – before playing the reverse fixtures until April 29.
Persepolis archrival Esteghlal will face Saudi club Al Ahli in Group C on April 15 and then plays Iraqi side Al Shorta three days later before going head-to-head with Qatari giant Al Duhail on April 21.
In Group B, the Iranian Hazfi Cup champion Tractor will first square off against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor, followed by fixtures against Sharjah of the UAE and one of Iraq’s Air Force AC or Al Wehda of Saudi Arabia, which will battle it out for a group spot in the playoffs.
Should the southern Iranian club Foolad Khuzestan overcome Emirati side Al Ain in the April 7 playoff tie, it will be pitted in Group D alongside Qatar’s Al Sadd, Saudi side Al Nassr, and Al Wehdat of Jordan – with a possible opener against Xavi’s Al Sadd on April 14.
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.
The Asian football governing body had announced in January that all games of each group will be hosted by one of the sides of the pool, though it is yet to confirm the host venue for each group.