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Your Quick Guide to the AFC Champions League Groups

The AFC Champions League is an occasion for football fans across Asia & beyond to connect, get exposure and insight to different cultures and learn about teams and places they wouldn’t otherwise encounter. In this concise guide, we aim to provide an intro to every team participating in the 2015 AFC Champions League Group Stage. Being a Middle East focused website, we have profiled the 16 teams making up the west Asia groups. There is some interesting trivia as well, enjoy!

 

GROUP A

Al-Nassr 

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Home: King Fahd Stadium, Riyadh Manager: Jorge da Silva Star Player: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi
ACL History: Runner-up (1995) ACL 2014: Did not qualify Did you know? Al-Nassr is nicknamed “The Global Club” as it was the 1st team to represent Asia in the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in 2000. It is also the only one to do so without actually winning the Champions League.

Lekhwiya

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Home: Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium, Doha Manager: Michael Laudrup Star Player: Vladimir Weiss
ACL History: Quarter Final (2013) ACL 2014: Group Stage (finished third) Did you know? Lekhwiya is the youngest team in the west Asia Groups, founded in 2009

Persepolis 

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Home: Azadi Stadium, Tehran Manager: Hamid Derakhshan Star Player: Payam Sadeghian
ACL History: Semis (97,98, 2000, 2001) ACL 2014: Did not qualify Did you know? Persepolis is still known across the region as Pirouzi, the name it carried in its continent dominating years some 20 years ago.

Bunyodkor

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Home: Bunyodkor Stadium, Tashkent Manager: Sergey Lushan Star Player: Sardor Rashidov
ACL History: Semis (2008, 2012) ACL 2014: Round of 16 Did you know? 1999 Ballon d’Or winner Rivaldo played for Bunyodkor for 2 seasons between 2008-2010. Who is the other Ballon d’Or winner to have played for a team in this group?

 


 

Group B

Pakhtakor

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Home: Pakhtakor Stadium, Tashkent Manager: Samvel Babayan Star Player: Jamshid Iskanderov
ACL History: Semis (2003, 2004) ACL 2014: Did not qualify Did you know? In 1979, as Pakhtakor were flying to Minsk for a Soviet league game when their plane crashed killing 17 players and staff.

Al-Shabab

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Home: King Fahd Stadium, Riyadh Manager: Jaime Pacheco Star Player: Naif Hazazi
ACL History: Semis (2010) ACL 2014: Round of 16 Did you know? Remember THAT Maradona-esque Saeed Al-Owairan goal in the 1994 World Cup? Not only did Al-Owairan play all his 13 years career for Al-Shabab. But Michele Preud’homme,  Belgium’s GK who was on the conceding end of that goal would later manage the team to a league title in 2011.

 Al-Ain

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Home: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al-Ain Manager: Zlatko Dalic Star Player: Omar Abdulrahman
ACL History: Winners (2003), Runner-up (2005) ACL 2014: Semi-Final Did you know? Al-Ain own not one, not two, but THREE home stadiums in the “Garden City” of Al-Ain on the UAE-Oman border. The smallest of the 3 stadia seats 15,000 fans.

Naft Tehran

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Home: Azadi Stadium, Tehran Manager: Ali Reza Mansourian Star Player: Vahid Amiri
ACL History: Debut ACL 2014: Did not qualify Did you know?Although they were founded in 1950, Naft haven’t played in Iran’s top flight until 2011.

 


Group C

Foolad Khuzestan

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Home: Ghadir Stadium, Ahvaz Manager: Dragan Skocic Star Player: Aloys Nong
ACL History: Round of 16 (2014) ACL 2014: Round of 16 Did you know? Foolad was a marginal team even in their own city until Ahvaz’ most popular team then, Jonoub Ahvaz, was dismantled in 1996.

Lokomotiv Tashkent

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Home: Lokomotiv Stadium, Tashkent Manager: Vadim Abramov Star Player: Farhod Tadjiyev
ACL History: Play-off (2014) ACL 2014: Play-off Did you know? In 2011 Lokomotive won promotion to the top tier of Uzbek League. Since, they went on to finish 3rd then 2nd twice to secure back to back ACL appearances.

Al-Hilal

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Home: King Fahd Stadium, Riyadh Manager: Vacant Star Player: Giorgios Samaras
ACL History: Winners (1991, 2000) ACL 2014: Runner-up Did you know? Al-Hilal is the record times winner of The Saudi League, FA Cup, King’s Cup & Crown Prince Cup. That is every major local competition.

Al-Sadd

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Home: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha Manager: Hussein Amotta Star Player: Khalfan Ibrahim
ACL History: Winners (1989, 2011) ACL 2014: Quarter-final Did you know? 15 different Brazilian coaches managed Al-Sadd Since Jose Faria in 1979.

 


 

Group D

Al-Ahli Jeddah

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Home: King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah Manager: Christian Gross Star Player: Omar Al-Somah
ACL History: Runner-up (1986-2012) ACL 2014: Did not qualify Did you know? Al-Ahli, one of Saudi’s top four teams, have not been able to win the league since 1984. They have won 12 domestic trophies in that period but the league continues to elude them.

Tractor Sazi 

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Home: Sahand Stadium, Tabriz Manager: Toni Oliveira Star Player: Andranik Teymourian
ACL History: Group Stages (2013, 2014) ACL 2014: Group Stage (finished 4th) Did you know? Tractor Sazi is the 3rd most supported team in Iran after Esteghlal & Persepolis. Their average home attendance in 2010/11 was 70,000 fans.

Nasaf Qarshi

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Home: Qarshi Stadium, Qarshi Manager: Ruziqul Berdiev Star Player: Artur Gevorkyan
ACL History: Semis (2002) ACL 2014: Play-off Did you know? Nasaf Qarshi are the only team in this group stage to have won the AFC Cup, lifting the trophy in 2011.

Al-Ahli Dubai

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Home: Rashed Stadium, Dubai Manager: Cosmin Olariou Star Player: Everton Ribeiro
ACL History: Group Stage (2005, 2009, 2014) ACL 2014: Group Stage (finished 3rd) Did you know? In their 45 years history, Al-Ahli has never had a local manager. Ironic for a team whose name means “The National”.

 

Tune in to our Podcast for group stage analysis, predictions and all things Middle Eastern football.

 

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