AFC Champions League resumes with a new format

Top teams from across the West Asian Zone will compete over 39 matches from the group stage through until the semifinal where the winner will meet their counterpart from the East Asian Zone to lay claim to the coontinent’s most prestigious club competition.

The West Asian leg of AFC Champions League which resumed at different venues in Qatar, features clubs from the host country, apart from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates. The group stage and the first of two play-off rounds will be over by the end of September.

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The winner of the West Asian zone will be decided on October 3, when the top two teams compete at Al Sadd’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.

There has been a change in format of the tournament with the knockout rounds, which will also see the the introduction of video assistant referees (VAR) technology for the time at the AFC level being decided on a single game rather than the usual home-and-away format.

VAR to be introduced in AFC

Qatari club Al Sadd’s (who are fomrer AFC Champions League winners) head coach Xavi Hernandez welcomed the change in format, “The tournament’s new format is totally different. There’ll be a single knockout game after the group stage. We must be careful. Everybody must be ready and recover very fast.”

“We play every three days and it’s tough for the players. But it’s good for the competition and the fans.

“We can’t rest too much between games, it’s tough but fair for all teams. We must focus and avoid mistakes,” added Xavi.

The tournament is being held in strict compliance with the post-COVID-19 related health protocals and fans are barred from the stadiums.

Nasser Al Khater, the CEO of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup said the Qatar Football Association (QFA) has taken all the necessary safety to host the remaining matches.

“From the very beginning, we’ve worked with the QFA, the Qatar Stars League and the AFC to ensure that all possible safety precautions are taken so that the tournament is delivered safely for everyone involved.

“While it’s unfortunate that matches will not be open to fans, we believe in the power of football to bring people together, even if this means coming together digitally or through television screens.”

(With AFC/SC inputs)

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