KUALA LUMPUR — The stage is set for an exhilarating display of football excellence as the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League 2023/24 was officially drawn at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The draw has brought together several former Asian champions, with the knockout matches scheduled for February.
A standout fixture from the draw is the clash between Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr and Al Fayha SC, creating a highly anticipated all-Saudi Arabian encounter. This domestic rivalry is expected to add an extra layer of excitement to the Round of 16 matchup as Al Nassr aims for their first AFC Champions League title.
Another Saudi powerhouse, four-time Asian champions Al Hilal SFC, is gearing up for a challenging match against Iran’s Sepahan SC, the tournament runners-up in 2007. Al Hilal's journey to Iran is anticipated to be a highlight, showcasing their determination to secure another championship.
The Saudi representation continues with two-time AFC Champions League winners Al Ittihad, who will face Uzbekistan’s Navbahor in a testament to the strength and depth of Saudi football in this year's competition.
While the focus remains on the Saudi teams, the East Zone promises exciting matchups as well. Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC and Pohang Steelers, both former Asian champions, will engage in an all-Korea Republic showdown. Ventforet Kofu, making their tournament debut, will face Korea Republic's Ulsan Hyundai FC, with the Japanese side playing the first leg away. China PR’s Shandong Taishan FC will meet Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, and Thailand's Bangkok United will take on Yokohama F. Marinos. All these teams are vying for their first AFC Champions League title.
With six former Asian champions in the mix, including the formidable teams from Saudi Arabia, the AFC Champions League 2023/24 knockout stage promises to be a spectacle of top-tier football, showcasing the talent and competitiveness of the participating clubs.