Asian Champions League Kicks Off with Star-Studded Lineup

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Football

As the European Champions League begins on Tuesday, Asia starts its main continental competition one day earlier. The tournament, featuring the presence of many stars signed by Saudi clubs, brings together a total of 40 teams in its group stage.

Participants have been divided into 10 groups of four teams each, based on their geographical regions. For example, Japanese teams, located in the eastern region, will not face Saudi teams in the western region during this phase. The group leaders will advance directly to the knockout stage, along with the top six second-placed teams. The final, which will be played in two legs, is scheduled for May 11 and May 18, 2024.

The current runner-up, Al-Hilal, who won in 2021/22 and were finalists defeated by Real Madrid in the last Club World Cup, will take the field on Monday in a match that may mark Neymar’s debut as a starter. Coach Jorge Jesus revealed that he rested his number 10 in a Saudi league match, looking ahead to the clash with Navbahor from Uzbekistan.

Other Saudi Arabian teams participating in the tournament include Al-Ittihad, featuring Kanté, Fabinho, and Benzema, who are also making their debut on Monday against AGMK from Uzbekistan. Al-Nassr, with players like Anderson Talisca, Mané, and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Al-Feiha, who did not make such high-profile investments, are also in the competition.

The schedule for the Asian Champions League is as follows:

Group stage: September 18 to December 13
Round of 16: February 12 to February 21
Quarter-finals: March 4 to March 13
Semi-finals: April 16 to April 24
Final: May 11 and May 18

Al-Nassr progressed through the preliminary rounds, which determined eight spots in the group stage. Under the guidance of Luis Castro, the team is aiming for their first title in the competition. The current champion is Urawa Red Diamonds from Japan, who will compete in the upcoming Club World Cup, while Al-Hilal is the most successful team in the history of the tournament.

In addition to the Saudi club stars, some other familiar names are participating in the Asian Champions League, including Philippe Coutinho, who recently joined Al-Duhail, Pjanic, the Bosnian midfielder playing for Sharjah, and Leandro Damião, who is part of Kawasaki Frontale.

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