The 2018 AFC Champions League (ACL) runner-up Persepolis of Iran will face Qatari side Al Sadd in the group stage of the tournament’s next edition in a repeat of this year’s semifinals.
The draw for the 2019 ACL group stage was conducted, on Thursday, at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the other Tehran-based giant Esteghlal was given a herculean task in Group C.
The champion of the previous edition of the Iranian knockout cup, known as Hazfi Cup, will have to square off against Qatar Stars League champion Al Duhail SC, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal and the UAE pro league’s Al Ain FC in one of the most competitive groups in the history of the tourney.
Esteghlal will start its campaign with an away fixture against Al Duhail on March 5 before a first home game against Al Ain on March 12.
Branko Ivanković’s Persepolis will also face Saudi side Al Ahli and a fourth team coming through the playoffs – the UAE’s Al Nasr, Air Force Athletic Club of Iraq or an Uzbek side yet to be announced – in Group D.
On March 5, the Iranian Reds will play their first game at home against the winner of the playoff and then play away to Al Saad on Matchday 2 on March 12.
Meanwhile, two other Iranian clubs Saipa and Zob Ahan Esfahan will have to enter the tournament’s group stage through playoffs.
Ali Daei’s Saipa will play the Indian side Minerva Punjab at home on February 12.
A victory for Daei’s men will see them travel to Qatar to play Al Rayyan for a place in Group B – along with Saudi club Al Ittihad, the UAE’s Al Wahda and Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent.
Zob Ahan will first host the winner of the match between Kuwait’s Al Kuwait and Al Wehdat of Jordan on February 12.
Should the Isfahan-based club win the fixture, it will play away to Qatar’s Al Gharafa on February 19.
The winner of the tie will battle Al Wasl of the UAE, Iraq’s Al Zawraa and the winner of the playoff match between Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in Group A.