Champions League: Dempo provisionally placed in Group B
Dubai, Jan 7 (IANS) India's I-League champions Dempo have been provisionally placed with Al Sharjah football club of United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Group B of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
The group stage draw took place here Wednesday in a newly-revamped format announced by the AFC in December. The tournament will feature 32 teams split into West Asia and East Asia/Asean groupings.
Groups A-D are made up by West and Central Asian sides while East and Asean teams are drawn together in groups E-H.
In the West Asia draw, Group A features Saudi Arabia?s Al Hilal, who were two-time winners, UAE President Cup?s holders Al Ahly, Uzbekistan League runners-up Pakhtakor and Iran?s Saba Battery.
Saudi Arabia?s Al Shabab will face Iran Pro League champs Persepolis, Qatar?s Al Gharafa and the winners of the West Asia qualifying play-off, UAE?s Al Sharjah or India?s Dempo in Group B.
The play-off match will take place Feb 25 at the Al Sharjah Stadium. Dempo, earlier made history by being the first Indian club to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Cup before they went down to Safa of Lebanon. The Goan side was denied an entry into the main tournament directly as the criteria set by the AFC wasn't met by a couple of clubs in India.
Group C appears to be the ?group of death? as two-time Asian Champions Al Ittihad have been drawn with Qatar?s Umm Salal, UAE?s Al Jazira and Iran?s Hazfi Cup winners Esteghal.
In Group D, UAE League champions Al Shabab will face Iran?s Sepahan, Uzbekistan League champions Bunyodkor and Saudi Arabia?s Al Ettifaq.
The first round of matches will be played March 10 and 11.
Group A: Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al Ahli (UAE), Saba Battery (Iran)
Group B: Persepolis (Iran), Shabab (Saudi Arabia), Al Gharafa (Qatar), Dempo (India)/ Sharjah (UAE)
Group C: Al Jazira (UAE), Esteghlal (Iran), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Umm Salal (Qatar)
Group D: Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan), Al Shabab (UAE), Foolad Sepahan (Iran), Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia)
Group E: Ulsan Hyundai (South Korea), Newcastle Jets (Australia), Beijing Guoan (China), Nagoya Grampus Eight (Japan)
Group F: Gamba Osaka (Japan), FC Seoul (South Korea), Sriwijaya (Indonesia), Shandong Luneng (China)
Group G: Shanghai Shenhua (China), Kashima Antlers (Japan), Suwon Samsung (South Korea), PSMS Medan (Indonesia)/Armed Forces (Singapore)/PEA (Thailand)
Group H: Central Coast Mariners (Australia), Tianjin Teda (China), Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Pohang Steelers (South Korea)
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