With the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) set to conduct the Group Stage draws for the AFC Champions League 2021 and AFC Cup 2021 on Wednesday, Indian football fans have a lot to be excited about.
As many as three Indian clubs – FC Goa, ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC – are in the mix to play in the top two Asian club footballing competitions in 2021.
Indian Super League (ISL) club FC Goa are set to create history by becoming the first Indian club ever to play in the AFC Champions League – the continent’s top club football competition – in 2021.
The Gaurs earned their spot by finishing at the top of the table after the ISL 2019-20 group phase. The total number of teams in the AFC Champions League have been increased from 32 to 40 for the upcoming season.
The 40 teams will be divided into 10 groups of four teams each at the draw. Five groups (A to E) will comprise teams from the Western Region, while the other five (F to J) are for teams from the Eastern Region. FC Goa will be in the Western Region groups.
For the AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage main draw, Juan Ferrando’s men are in Western Region’s Pot 3 along with two-time AFC Cup runners-up FC Istiklol from Tajikistan, Jordanian Pro League champions Al Wehdat, Iranian powerhouse Esteghlal and two-time AFC Champions League semi-finalists Pakhtakor from Uzbekistan.
Antonio Lopez Habas’ side, however, will be in Group D – the only group reserved for clubs from the South Asian Zone.
Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings and Maldivian side Maziya are the other two confirmed sides in the group. Hence, no permutation and combination will be needed here.
The open fourth slot will be decided through the South Asian Zone Qualifying play-offs. Interestingly, ISL 2018-19 champions Bengaluru FC are in line to clinch the slot through the qualifiers.
The Blues were granted their place in the AFC Cup 2021 qualifiers courtesy their third-place finish in the ISL 2019-20 league phase.
Bengaluru FC, though, will need to get through to qualifying matches from April to May 2021 in order to make it into the main event.
The draws will be held through a virtual ceremony from the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
Where to watch the AFC Cup 2021 and AFC Champions League Group Stage draws on live streaming in India?
Live streaming of the AFC Cup 2021 Group Stage draw will be available on AFC’s YouTube channel – The AFC Hub - from 12:00 PM IST (Indian Standard Time) on January 27. You can watch it here.
The AFC Champions League 2021 Group Stage draw will be live streamed on the same channel from 2:00 PM IST onwards. You can watch it here.
Lead photo: ISL Media