India’s FC Goa have been drawn in Group E of the AFC Champions League alongside Iranian powerhouse Persepolis and Qatar’s Al Rayyan club.
The fourth team of the group will be determined by the winner of the AFC Champions League 2021 qualifiers playoff match between UAE’s Al-Wahda and Iraq’s Al-Zawraa.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted the group stage draws of both the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup on Wednesday through a virtual ceremony. The draws were held at the AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Indian Super League (ISL) side FC Goa will be the first team in Indian football history to participate at the AFC Champions League – Asia’s premier club footballing competition.
The Gaurs, however, will face an uphill task in a group where all their opponents come from countries ranked considerably higher than India in the FIFA Rankings. Iran are ranked 29th, Qatar 58th, Iraq 69th and UAE 74th.
Comparatively, India are in the 104th position in the current men’s football FIFA Rankings.
Iran’s Persepolis are the reigning Persian Gulf Pro League champions and have finished runners up in the AFC Champions League twice – in 2018 and 2020. In the last edition, Persepolis lost out to South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai in the final.
The 13-time domestic champions are also one of the most well-supported teams in Iran.
Al-Rayyan, meanwhile, are eight-time champions of the Qatar Stars League and are currently managed by former Inter Milan and Manchester United great Laurent Blanc. He won the 1998 FIFA World Cup with the France national team.
Reigning AFC Champions League champions Ulsan Hyundai are in Group F and will have Thailand's Pathum United, Vietnam's Viettel FC and a playoff winner for company.
AFC Cup 2021 Draw: ATK Mohun Bagan in Group D
In the AFC Cup draw, ATK Mohun Bagan were expectedly placed in Group D, which was reserved for teams from AFC’s South Asian Zone. ATKMB will play their matches in Maldives.
Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings and Maldivian side Maziya are the other two confirmed sides in the group. The fourth team will be decided by the South Asian Zone Qualifying play-offs.
ISL 2018-19 champions Bengaluru FC have a chance to join ATK Mohun Bagan in the group through the qualifiers. Bengaluru FC finished runners up at the 2016 AFC Cup.
Lead photo: ISL Media