AFC Champions League 2023-24: Mumbai City grouped alongside Neymar's Al Hilal
The other two teams in Mumbai City’s AFC Champions League group are debutants in the event.
The AFC Champions League 2023-24 Groups were created in the Group Stage draw held at the AFC House at Kuala Lumpur on August 24, 2023. A total of 10 groups were formed, with 40 teams set to go under the hammer in an effort to win Asia’s most prestigious club competition from September onwards.
Mumbai City in challenging group
Of course, India was proudly represented in the draw through Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 Shield winners Mumbai City FC. However, luck was unfortunately not on their side in the group stages as they got put into a very difficult group.
The Islanders will be playing against reigning Saudi Arabia Pro League champions Al-Hilal, who are absolutely stacked with recognizable stars. The likes of Neymar, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Ruben Neves, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Yassine Bounou all play for the Saudi heavyweights, and they are uncontested favourites to win the ACL this season.
Alongside Al-Hilal, Mumbai City will also meet Iranian giants FC Nassaji and 2022 Uzbekistan Super League runners-up Navbahor – both who will be making their debuts in the AFC Champions League this time around.
The Islanders will need to play their socks off to compete strongly in the ACL group stages and avoid being the whipping boys of the group. Des Buckingham’s side has dominated Indian football for over a year, but will need to perform at an even higher level to survive in Asia.
The remaining Western Zone groups
The Western Zone of the AFC Champions League have four more groups – A, B, C and E. The first group is quite stacked too, consisting of Uzbekistan Top Division champions Pakhtakor, who are two-time ACL semi-finalists. They will be accompanied by Saudi Arabian side and 2022 Kings Cup winners Al-Fayha, Turkmenistan champions Ahal Anew, and UAE Pro League champions Al-Ain FC.
Group B consists of 2021-22 Qatar Stars League champions Al Sadd FC, Uzbekistan heavyweights FC Nasaf, Jordan Pro League champions Al-Faisaly, and 2022-23 UAE Cup winners Sharjah FC!
Saudi heavyweights Al-Itthad, which consists of players like Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante, headline Group C alongside Iranian heavyweights Sepahan FC, 2022-23 Iraqi FA Cup winners Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, and Uzbekistan side AGMK.
Group E will definitely be a highly watched one because it features Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr FC. They will be playing against Iran club Persepolis FC, reigning Qatar Stars League champions Al Duhail SC, and 2022 Tajikistan champions Istiklol FC.
The Eastern Zone Groups
Similar to the western zone, the AFC Champions League also consists of five groups in the Eastern Region as well. In this, Group F (the first group) is headlined by 2022 South Korea FA Cup winners Jeobuk Hyundai Motors. They will be up against Thai League side Bangkok United, reigning Hong Kong champions Kitchee FC and Singapore giants Lion City Sailors.
Japanese heavyweights Yokohama F. Marinos headline Group G and will go up against Chinese side Shandong Taishan FC, reigning Philippine league champions Kaya-Iloilo FC and South Korean side Incheon United.
Group H is spearheaded by reigning Thailand League champions Buriram United. They will go up against A-League giants Melbourne City FC, 2022 Japan Emperor’s Cup champions Ventforet Kofu and Chinese Super League heavyweights Zhejiang FC.
Reigning K League 1 champions Ulsan Hyundai FC headline Group I, where they go up against Japanese heavyweights Kawasaki Frontale FC, 2022 Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Tazim, and Thailand side BG Pathum United.
The final group of the Eastern Region contains the defending ACL Champions, Urawa Red Diamonds. They will go up against the 2022 Chinese Super League winners Wuhan Three Towns, South Korean side Pohang Steelers, and 2022 Vietnamese League champions Hanoi FC.
When are the games going to happen?
While the AFC are yet to release the schedule of the AFC Champions League group games, the tentative dates for when the matches will happen has already been released.
The first set of group games will take place from September 11-September 20. The second matchday takes place on October 2-October 4, with the third matchday on October 23-October 25.
There are two matchdays for group games in November (November 6-November 8) and (November 27-November 29). The final set of group games in matchday 6 will take place on December 4-December 6 and December 12-December 13.
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