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Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Karim Benzema in India? Mumbai City to Know AFC Champions League Fate – News18

Mumbai City FC are representing India in the AFC Champions League for the second time in their history.

On their first try, in 2022, Mumbai City became the first Indian club to win a match in the AFC Champions League, beating Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya 2–1.

Mumbai City won the League Winner’s Shield for the 2022-23 Indian Super League season and then defeated last season’s champion Jamshedpur FC in a play-off to be in the continent’s premier club tournament.

With MCFC’s participation comes Asia’s top tournament returns to Indian grounds. Mumbai City had to play at a centralised location due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the Islanders’ landmark second appearance, Mumbai City FC announced that they will be playing their ‘home’ games at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune.

ALSO READ | Mumbai City to Play AFC Champions League ‘Home’ Games in Pune

The present infrastructural set-up at the Mumbai Football Arena makes the venue ineligible to host AFC Champions League games and hence MCFC will play their three ‘home’ Group Stage games in Pune.

Fans had already started anticipating a visit from Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese superstar’s move to Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, who did manage to book their spot in the AFC Champions League group stage via a play-off.

Then, the summer transfer window opened. International stars followed in Ronaldo’s footsteps to Saudi Arabia.

So much so, that not only Al Nassr’s Ronaldo but Sadio Mane, Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Telles and David Ospina can accompany him.

In fact, if not Ronaldo then Neymar or Karim Benzema might come to India. Al-Hilal’s Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic will be with Neymar or Al-Ittihad’s N’Golo Kante and Finaho will join Benzema.

The fourth Sudi Pro League team is Al-Fayha with clubs from the same country being protected from being drawn in the same group, India can face either Al Ittihad, Al Hilal, Al Fayha or Al Nassr, or even not be drawn with any.

Mumbai City will be playing in the West Zone alongside teams from the West Asian Football Federation and the Central Asian Football Association.

Hence, apart from the Saudi teams, West Zone will see Al Ain FC from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar’s Al Sadd SC and Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and Iran’s Persepolis.

The East Zone has teams from the ASEAN Football Federation, the East Asian Football Federation and Australia.

If Mumbai City FC make it through from their group, they can face another City Football Group team Yokohama F. Marinos of Japan, provided they also qualify for the knockouts.

Mumbai City FC are in pot 3 of the draw, which will be held at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on August 24 (Thursday). The draw will be live on the AFC Hub YouTube channel from 1:30 PM IST onwards in India.

In fact, this is the first instance of the AFC Club Competitions calendar shifting from the Spring-Autumn season to an Autumn-Spring calendar. The 21st edition of AFC’s flagship club competition will take place from September 2023 to May 2024.


West Zone

Pot 1: Al Ittihad (KSA), Persepolis FC (IRN), Al Sadd SC (QAT), Pakhtakor (UZB), Al Hilal SFC (KSA)

Pot 2: Sepahan SC (IRN), Al Duhail SC (QAT), FC Nasaf (UZB), Al Fayha FC (KSA), Nassaji Mazandaran FC (IRN)

Pot 3: Al Faisaly (JOR), FC Istiklol (TJK), Air Force Club (IRQ), Ahal FC (TKM), Mumbai City FC (IND)

Pot 4: Al Ain FC (UAE), Al Nassr (KSA), Sharjah FC (UAE), AGMK FC (UZB), Navbahor (UZB)

East Zone

Pot 1: Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN), Wuhan Three Towns FC (CHN), Buriram United (THA), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR)

Pot 2: Ventforet Kofu (JPN), Shandong Taishan FC (CHN), Bangkok United (THA), Pohang Steelers (KOR), Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)

Pot 3: Hanoi FC (VIE), Kaya FC-Iloilo (PHI), Johor Darul Ta’zim (MAS), Melbourne City FC (AUS), Lion City Sailors (SGP)

Pot 4: Kitchee SC (HKG), Incheon United FC (KOR), Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN), Zhejiang FC (CHN), BG Pathum United (THA)

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