THE INDIAN CLUBS participating in the Asian club competitions will find out their group placements and other details about the group stage today, as the Asian Football Confederation conducts the official draw ceremony for the group stages of AFC Champions League 2021 and AFC Cup 2021.
Although group placement isn't a mystery for Mohun Bagan (Who qualified for AFC Cup group stage by becoming champions of I-League 2019-20) and Bengaluru FC (Who qualified for AFC Cup Preliminary Round 2 after ISL playoff winners ATK FC got dissolved), it is something that FC Goa (Who became the Champions of India by finishing top ISL 2019-20 points table, winning the League Winner's Shield) will be eagerly looking forward to.
Since AFC Cup's group stage is divided by geographical regions, Indian clubs are placed in Group D which is assigned to South Asian clubs.
Mohun Bagan are already in the group along with Bashundhara Kings from Bangladesh and Maziya SRC from Maldives. Bengaluru FC, meanwhile, will get active early. On 14th April they'll play in the Preliminary Stage 2, facing the winner from the first preliminary stage match between Nepal Army Club & Sri Lanka Police. It will be a single leg fixture at a centralised venue instead of the traditional home-away double leg encounter due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
If BFC manage to win this match, they'll go to the Play-off Stage on 21st April, facing one of Abahani Limited Dhaka (Bangladesh), Club Eagles (Maldives) or Thimphu City FC (Bhutan). If they win that one, they'll join Mohun Bagan, Bashundhra Kings & Maziya at the group stage which will be played at a centralised venue in a single leg round robin format between 14th and 20th May 2021.
The official draw for AFC Cup 2021 begins at 12 noon IST.
For FC Goa, however, things are more interesting at the draw since they are the first Indian club to play at the group stages of the modern iteration of the Asian top tier club championship.
The ACL 2021 draw will pit them against some intimidating West Asian clubs that'll give the Gaurs the toughest tests they've faced in their history.
They, too, will play at a centralised venue and their group stage games will be played between 14th and 30th April.
The ceremony will begin at 2 pm IST.
This is a historic day for Indian club football since for the first time, 3 Indian clubs are part of the prestigious Asian club competitions; giving Indian football fans a lot to look forward to even after the conclusion of the ISL and I-League.