Kuala Lumpur, – The Group Stage of the 2017 AFC Champions League begins on Monday, with 32 teams from across the continent kicking off what promises to be yet another action-packed edition of Asia’s premier club competition.
The first round of fixtures will take place on Monday with clash between 2015 runners-up Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates and two-time Asian champions Esteghlal the pick of the day in Group A.
Al Ahli narrowly missed out on winning the 2015 competition after suffering a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande in the final, while Esteghlal return for the first time since 2014 having seen off Al Sadd on penalties following a scoreless draw to advance via the Play-offs.
Elsewhere in Group A, 2016 quarter-finalists Lokomotiv will be hosted by Saudi Arabian debutants Al Taawoun on the back of producing their best performance to date in the continental tournament.
Earlier on Monday, another debutant, Esteghlal Khouzestan of Islamic Republic of Iran, will open the competition in Group B by taking on Saudi Arabia’s Al Fateh, whose only previous appearance came in 2014.
Esteghlal Khouzestan caused a major upset by claiming their maiden Iran Pro League title last year and have a recent history that mirrors that of their opponents, who did likewise in winning their first and only Saudi Professional League championship in 2013.
Also in Group B, two-time quarter-finalists Lekhwiya will welcome Al Jazira of the UAE with the visitors boasting the recently acquired Brazilian Leonardo � who netted twice in Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors’ 3-2 aggregate victory over Al Ain in last year’s final � within their ranks.
Source: Qatar News Agency