The ‘Boss’ Al Ain have been drawn with Uzbekistan’s Nasaf and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli in their 2016 Asian Champions League group ‘D’, while President’s Cup winners Al Nasr are in group A with Foolad Mobarakeh Sepahan of Iran and Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan.
Both these group’s fourth team will be decided after a play-off stage where Naft Tehran, who eliminated Al Ahli in the round of 16 to make it to the last eight in their debut ACL campaign, or Al Jaish of Qatar will complete group D and Al Ittihad of Saudi or Al Wehdat Jordan will lock horns against each other to seal their birth in group A.
The other UAE teams in the running for the ACL, Al Jazira and Al Shabab, will have to battle their way through play-offs. Al Jazira meet Qatar’s formidable side Al Sadd, who have former Barcelona star Xavi. If they are successful on February 9, they will be pitted against Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan, Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia and Tractorsazi Tabriz of Iran in group C. It has to be recalled that Al Sadd in 2011 had battled their way from the play-offs to clinch the title defeating Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the final.
Al Shabab, having finished third in the Arabian Gulf League, will have to brush aside the challenge from Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor to cement their place in Group B alongside Qatari champions Lekhwiya. Bunyodkar had made the knockout stage in their first seven continental campaigns before going out at the group stage of this year’s competition.
Brazilian Robinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande, who dashed UAE’s Al Ahli’s hopes of clinching the continental title less than a month ago by a solitary goal, were drawn against Sydney FC, who are appearing in the ACL for the first time since 2011, while in group H. Guangzhou Evergrande, the 2015 AFC Club of the Year, will know their third opponent following the play-off East 1 between 2010 ACL champions Pohang Steelers and the winners of the preliminary stage match between Hanoi T&T and Kitchee of Hong Kong. The fourth Japanese opponent will be known on January 1 following the Emperor’s Cup final.
Australia’s Melbourne Victory will face Korean champions Suwon Bluewings, their only confirmed opponent, who qualified after finishing second in the K-League this season.
Group A: 1.Foolad Mobarakeh Sepahan (IRN) 2. Al Nasr (UAE) 3. Lokomotiv (UZB) 4. Al Ittihad (KSA) or Al Wehdat (JOR)
Group B: 1. Al Nassr (KSA) 2. Zobahan (IRN) 3.Lekhwiya (QAT) 4. Bunyodkor (UZB) v Al Shabab (UAE)
Group C: 1. Pakhtakor (UZB) 2. Al Hilal (KSA) 3. Tractorsazi Tabriz (IRN) 4. Al Jazira (UAE) or Al Sadd (QAT)
Group D: 1. Al Ain (UAE). 2. Nasaf (UZB) 3. Al Ahli (KSA). 4. Naft Tehran (IRN) or El Jaish (QAT)
Group E: 1. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) 2. Jiangsu Sainty (CHN) 3. Becamex Binh Duong (VIE) 4. Winner Playoff 2
Group F: 1. Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN) 2. FC Seoul (KOR) 3. Buriram United (THA) 4. Winner Playoff 3
Group G: 1. Melbourne Victory (AUS) 2. Japan 2nd Club (JPN) 3. Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR) 4. Winner Playoff 4
Group H: 1. Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) 2. Sydney FC (AUS) 3. Japan 3rd Club (JPN) 4. Winner Playoff East 1
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