Tuesday , April 16 2024

Thrilling battle lines to be drawn for AFC Champions League 2023/24 Knockout Stage!

The excitement levels surrounding the AFC Champions League 2023/24 will ratchet up another notch when the Knockout Stage encounters are revealed next Thursday, December 28 at 16:00 (UTC+8).

Of the 40 teams that contested the 21st edition of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)’s flagship club competition when it kicked off in September 2023, 16 sides have come through the Group Stage to take their places ahead of the official draw ceremony at the AFC House.

Eight teams each from the West Region and East Region – five Group winners and the three best runners-up – will discover their path to the Final, starting with the eight two-legged Round of 16 ties in February 2024.
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Two-time champions Al Hilal SFC of Saudi Arabia will appear in the Knockout Stage for a joint-record 14th time, while Uzbekistan’s Navbahor and Saudi Arabia’s Al Fayha FC have impressively reached this stage on their competition debuts. Al Ain FC (United Arab Emirates), FC Nasaf (Uzbekistan), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Al Nassr (Saudi Arabia) and Sepahan SC (Iran) complete the West Region cast.

In the East, Japanese outfit Ventforet Kofu made history by becoming the first ever second-tier side to reach the Knockout Stage – on their maiden foray into the competition, no less. Thai side Bangkok United have also made it to the Knockout Stage for the first time, while South Korea giants Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC, who have two titles to their name, join Al Hilal on 14 appearances at this stage. The rest of the East Region teams comprise Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan), Kawasaki Frontale (Japan), Pohang Steelers (South Korea), Shandong Taishan (China PR) and Ulsan Hyundai FC (South Korea).

The clubs in each Region will be drawn into pairings, where they will each play one home and one away match against their opponents. The Round of 16 (West) ties will take place on February 12 and 13 (first leg), and February 19 and 20 (second leg); the Round of 16 (East) encounters are set for February 13 and 14 (first leg), and February 20 and 21 (second leg).

Each Region will comprise two Pots: Pot 1 for Group winners and Pot 2 for the best runners-up. The Pots are indicated below:

West Region
Pot 1: Al Ain FC (UAE), FC Nasaf (UZB), Al Ittihad (KSA), Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Al Nassr (KSA)
Pot 2: Navbahor (UZB), Sepahan SC (IRN), Al Fayha SC (KSA)

East Region
Pot 1: Bangkok United (THA), Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN), Ventforet Kofu (JPN), Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Pohang Steelers (KOR)
Pot 2: Shandong Taishan (CHN), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR), Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR)

Prior to the draw for each Region, one club from Pot 1 will be drawn at random and placed into Pot 2, in order to have the same number of clubs in each Pot. The draw will commence with the West Region, followed by the East, starting with Pot 2 and followed by Pot 1.

Each club in Pot 2 will be paired with a club from Pot 1, with the Group Protection principle applying to both Regions i.e clubs that progressed from the same Group will not be drawn against each other.

The eight winning clubs on aggregate over both ties in the Round of 16 will progress to the Quarter-finals, which will take place on March 4, 5, 11 and 12 (West), and 5, 6, 12 and 13 (East). The Semi-finals are scheduled for April 16 and 23 (West), and April 17 and 24 (East), with the coveted Final to be held over two legs on May 11 and 18, 2024.

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