Kuala Lumpur: Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan will kick off the defence of their AFC Champions League title in Group J following the 2023/24 Official Draw in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal SFC – who won the 2019 and 2021 titles and were runners-up last season – were drawn in Group D.
The draw saw the 40 teams divided into 10 groups – five each in the East and West Zones.
The 10 group winners along with the three best runners-up of each Zone will book their places in the Knockout Stages, which will take place from February to April before the final is held over two legs on May 11 and 18, 2024.
The West Zone’s Group A will be contested by Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor, debutants Al Fayha FC of Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan’s Ahal FC and UAE’s Al Ain FC, while Group B will see 2011 champions Al Sadd SC of Qatar, Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf, Al Faisaly of Jordan and Sharjah FC of UAE vying to advance.
Group C will witness exciting contests between two-time winners Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, Sepahan SC of Iran, Iraq’s Air Force Club and Uzbekistan’s AGMK FC, while Group D involves four-time Asian champions Al Hilal, Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran FC, Mumbai City FC of India and Navbahor of Uzbekistan.
Islamic Republic of Iran’s Persepolis FC, Al Duhail SC of Qatar, Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol and Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia will aim to advance from Group E.
Group F of the East Zone will involve two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC of Korea Republic, Thailand’s Bangkok United, Lion City Sailors of Singapore and Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC with Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos, Shandong Taishan FC of China PR, Philippines’ Kaya FC-Iloilo and Incheon United FC of Korea Republic the Group G cast.
Thailand’s Buriram United, Ventforet Kofu of Japan, Australia’s Melbourne City FC and Zhejiang FC of China PR will battle it out in Group H while twice winners Ulsan Hyundai FC of Korea Republic, Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia and Thailand’s BG Pathum United are in the race to advance from Group I.
Bidding to do the same from Group J will be China PR’s Wuhan Three Towns FC, former champions Pohang Steelers of Korea Republic, Vietnam’s Hanoi FC and Urawa.
The 2023/24 season will see the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in use from the group stage.
Group A: Pakhtakor (UZB), Al Fayha FC (KSA), Ahal FC (TKM), Al Ain FC (UAE)
Group B: Al Sadd SC (QAT), FC Nasaf (UZB), Al Faisaly (JOR), Sharjah FC (UAE)
Group C: Al Ittihad (KSA), Sepahan SC (IRN), Air Force Club (IRQ), AGMK FC (UZB)
Group D: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Nassaji Mazandaran FC (IRN), Mumbai City FC (IND), Navbahor (UZB)
Group E: Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Duhail SC (QAT), FC Istiklol (TJK), Al Nassr (KSA)
Group F: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR), Bangkok United (THA), Lion City Sailors (SGP), Kitchee SC (HKG)
Group G: Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN), Shandong Taishan FC (CHN), Kaya FC-Iloilo (PHI), Incheon United FC (KOR)
Group H: Buriram United (THA), Ventforet Kofu (JPN), Melbourne City FC (AUS), Zhejiang FC (CHN)
Group I: Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS), BG Pathum United (THA)
Group J: Wuhan Three Towns FC (CHN), Pohang Steelers (KOR), Hanoi FC (VIE), Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)