AFC Champions League group stage draw: FC Goa to play against Persepolis and Al-Rayyan
FC Goa has been drawn with Persepolis and Al-Rayyan in Group E of the AFC Champions League for the upcoming season.
The Gaurs have been drawn into one of the toughest groups in the continental competition as Persepolis finished runners-up of 2018 AFC Champions League and has won the Persian Gulf Pro League for the last four seasons consecutively.
Al-Rayyan are also a strong team managed by former France and Paris Saint Germain manager Laurent Blan and features the likes of Algerian midfielder Yacine Brahimi, Cameroonian midfielder Franck Kom, and Argentinian defender Gabriel Mercado.
Another team yet to qualify for the competition (from UAE or Iraq) will join these three teams in Group E and make it an enthralling contest to qualify for the Round of 16. Out of 40 teams divided into 10 groups, 10 respective table-toppers along with six second-ranked teams with maximum points in their respective groups will qualify for the knockout stages.
FC Goa Head coach Juan Ferrando is rubbing his hands to play the biggest competition and says it’s a big responsibilty for the club as they are the first Indian team to qualify for the AFC Champions League. The Spanish manager said,
“The AFC Champions League is the biggest competition in Asia, so we were expecting nothing but the toughest of competitions. It’s a great opportunity for the club and the players to get some really valuable experience. It’s also a big responsibility for us as we are the first-ever club from India to participate in this competition.”
FC Goa director of football Ravi Puskur has offered to host their group of matches in the state of Goa which has three stadiums with world-class pitch quality and are already hosting the ongoing Indian Super League season. Due to Covid-19, AFC has decided to use one centralised venue for a whole group instead of home and away matches.
Puskur also expressed his desire to play Qatari club Al-Sadd which is currently managed by Spain and FC Barcelona legend Xavi and the Gaurs playing in their first ever season of a continental competition would love to progress to the knockout stages of the competition and play the giants of Asian football like Al-Sadd.
Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan FC has been drawn in the Group D of AFC Cup along with Bangladeshi club Bashundara Kings and Maziya SC from Maldives with one team yet to qualify joining them very soon. The Mariners would be hoping to progress to the further stages of the competition as they have a very strong core of Indian players and a few overseas superstars playing their role excellently in the squad.
Bengaluru FC will play a playoff match in the second round of AFC Cup and will join the group stage if they emerge winners from their crucial playoff match.