Iran’s Persepolis will start its 2020 AFC Champions League campaign with an away fixture at Qatar’s Al Duhail on February 11, while Sepahan was drawn in arguably the toughest group of the West zone.
The draw for the group stage of the competition was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday and the Iranian sides learned their fate.
Persepolis has fond memories of facing Al Duhail as a memorable comeback in Tehran saw the Persian Gulf Pro League’s three-time defending champion pull off a 3-2 aggregate victory over the Qatari giant in the quarterfinals of the 2018 ACL.
Joining the Iranian Reds and Al Duhail in Group C, are the UAE’s league leader Sharjah FC and Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun – currently fourth in Saudi Professional League.
Sepahan, on its return to the competition, was handed a place in probably the group of death of West Asia.
Amir Qalenoei’s men were drawn alongside last year’s semifinalist Al Sadd, Saudi champion Al Nassr and a fourth side – one of the UAE’s Al Ain, Uzbekistan’s FC Bunyodkor or Al Zawraa SC of Iraq – in Group D.
Battles for berths
Esteghlal and Shahr Khodro, meanwhile, will have to secure their places in the group phase through preliminary playoffs.
Should Iranian league leader Esteghlal make it to the group stage, it will be handed a place in Group A.
To that end, Esteghlal will have to beat either Jordan’s Al Faisaly FC or Kuwait SC at the Azadi Stadium on January 22 and then overcome Al Rayyan SC in Qatar a week later.
Emirati side Al Wahda and Iraq’s Al Shorta are already placed in the group and the other remaining spot will be allotted to the winner of the playoff fixtures between Saudi’s Al Ahli, Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv Tashkent and the Tajik side FC Istiklol.
Yahya Golmohammadi’s Shahr Khodro will host the winner of India’s Chennai City FC and Bahrain’s Riffa SC and in case of victory will play away to Qatar’s Al Sailiya SC in Doha.
The winner of the tie will be given a place in Group B to face the defending champion Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, the UAE’s Al Shabab and Uzbekistan’s Paktakor.