MUMBAI CITY FC HAVE BEEN drawn into a tough group at the AFC Champions League 2022.
The ISL 2020-21 champions are set to make their first foray into continental football this year at the highest club championship in the continent. In a draw held today, they were placed into Group B of the competition along with Al Jazira Club (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Al-Shabab Football Club (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) and Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya (Baghdad, Iraq).
This is going to be a tougher test for Mumbai City than the one faced by FC Goa last year. The Champions of India are going up against some of the finest clubs that West Asia has to offer.
Al Jazira Club of UAE play out of an arena that's familiar for Indian football fans: the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium that hosted the India vs UAE match in the Asian Cup 2019. The club, established in 1974, gained prominence over the last decade when they became a top force in the UAE Pro League. They have been champions 3 times (2010-11, 2016-17, 2020-21). They have also won the UAE President's Cup 3 times and UAE Super Cup once. They are also almost a regular in the continental level.
Al-Shabab, who were the runners up in Saudi Premier League last season, are the most successful club in the history of thw country. They've won the top league 6 times, finished as runners up 3 times, won the Saudi King's Cup 3 times, the Crown Prince Cup 3 times. The club even has continental glory to its name. They won the Asian Cup Winners' Cup, the predecessor tournament to AFC Cup, in 2001.
And Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, aka the Air Force Club from Iraq, is another familiar name for Indian football fans. They were the ones who beat Bengaluru FC in the final of AFC Cup in 2016. They are the crown jewel of Iraqi football, with 7 Iraqi Premier League titles to their names and 12 finishes as the runners up. They also won the AFC Cup title 3 times back to back in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The calibre of opponents that Mumbai City will be facing makes it clear that it will be one uphill task after another when the Champions of India take to the field in ACL. The group stage is expected to begin around 7th April 2022, and it remains to be seen if MCFC will be able to get ready for this elevated level of competition by then.
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