AFC CL Draw: Mumbai City could run into Ronaldo, Neymar or Benzema

Mumbai City FC will find out their AFC Champions League group stage opponents on Thursday afternoon when the draw takes place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Mumbai qualified for the tournament after beating Jamshedpur FC 3-1 in a playoff tie in April, after becoming ISL League Shield winners earlier this year.

In the club’s second entry into the competition, they confirmed earlier this week that they would play their home games in Pune, due to the Mumbai Football Arena being ineligible to host AFC Champions League matches.

The Pots

Mumbai City will be placed in Pot 3 of the West Zone, with one team from each pot getting drawn into each of the five groups.

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

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

Can Mumbai City FC face any of the big Saudi clubs?

Yes, Neymar’s Al Hilal, Karim Benzema’s Al Ittihad and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr are all potential group-stage opponents for Mumbai City. In fact, there’s a 40% chance that Mumbai City will be drawn against either Al Ittihad or Al Hilal. However, only one team per country can be drawn into any group, so if Mumbai draw one of the Saudi Arabian clubs from Pot 1, they will not face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr as well.

“We all know there are now big players playing at the Saudi teams. We are looking forward to playing one of the big teams, like Al Nassr or Al Ittihad,” Mumbai City captain Rahul Bheke told ESPN.

Head coach Des Buckingham also spoke of the excitement at the potential of the club facing the likes of Ronaldo and Neymar. “I think it’ll be great. Players want to play against the best players. That’s the beauty of this competition. It’s the highest level of club football in Asia, which now has another layer of excitement because of what has happened in Saudi Arabia,” the Englishman told ESPN.

What happened last time Mumbai City FC played the AFC Champions League?

Buckingham’s side finished second in Group B in the last edition of the AFC Champions League but missed out on qualification to the second round by two points, as only the three best second-placed teams from the five West Zone groups could qualify. Mumbai City beat Iraq’s Air Force club twice – 2-1 and 1-0 – and picked up one draw against UAE’s Al Jazira, but were no match for Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab.

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Where can I watch the draw?

The draw will be streamed live on the AFC Hub YouTube channel from 1:30 PM IST onwards.

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