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Qatari clubs face familiar foes in continental duels

Qatari clubs face familiar foes in continental duels

TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
DOHA
Al Duhail SC and Al Sadd SC will meet clubs from Iran, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates once again in a politically-charged group stage of the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Asia’s premier club football competition, which features 32 teams, is split into two geographic zones, east and west, until the final. It means that the group stage, drawn on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, is full of regional rivalries.
The toughest group puts the champions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates together as Al Hilal, Al Duhail and Al Ain meet.
Additionally, Al Sadd of Qatar, winners in 2011, have been drawn with Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli. If qualified, Al Rayyan will join Group B, which includes the UAE’s Al Wahda, Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan champions Lokomotiv. Al Rayyan will fight with Saipa of Iran and Minerva of India in play-off.
Al Gharafa have the chance to qualify for Group A, which includes Al Wasl of the UAE and Al Zawraa of Iraq. Al Gharafa will vie with Al Wehdat of Jordan, Kuwait SC and Zob Ahan of Iran in play-off.
Saudi Arabia, as well as the UAE, broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017.
Saudi Arabia and Iran also cut ties in January 2016 and matches between clubs from the two countries are played in neutral venues.
Despite requests from UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2018 that meetings with Qatari clubs also be played in neutral venues, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) insisted otherwise.
Qatar’s Al Sadd are confident that the same will be the case in February when the tournament gets under way.
“We are in a group with a Saudi Arabian team and an Iranian team,” Al Sadd manager Mohammed al Berik told AFP.
“We played in 2018 and everything went safely.
“The football is football. The language of football is for everyone and we didn’t have any problems. We will go to play at the end of the world if we have to.”
Former Qatar international and Al Sadd star Wesam Rizik participated in the draw ceremony along with other stars from Asia.
Japan’s Kashima Antlers won the 2018 title but did not qualify for the 2019 version.Groups
Group A: Al Wasl (UAE), Al Zawraa Club (IRQ), Winner of Playoff 4, Winner of Playoff 2
Group BcTypeface:> Al Ittihad (KSA), Al Wadha FSCC (UAE), Uzbekistan 1st Club, Winner of Playoff 3
Group CcTypeface:> Al Duhail SC (QAT), Al Hilal (KSA), Al Ain (UAE), Esteghlal FC (IRN)
Group DcTypeface:> Persepolis (IRN), Al Sadd (QAT), Al Ahli Saudi (KSA), Winner of Playoff 1
Group EcTypeface:> Korea Rep. 3rd Club, Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS), Winner of Playoff 4, Winner of Playoff 2
Group FcTypeface:> Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN), Korea Rep. 2nd Club, Melbourne Victory (AUS), Winner of Playoff 3
Group GcTypeface:> Japan 2nd Club, China PR 2nd Club, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR), Buriram United (THA)
Group HcTypeface:> Sydney FC (AUS), Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Shanghai SIPG (CHN), Winner of Playoff 1

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