Iran bids for hosting ACL knockouts

Sports Desk

Iran Football Federation on Tuesday launched a bid to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for hosting the AFC Champions League (ACL) knockout rounds – from the quarterfinals onwards – in the West zone, including the final showpiece.
The AFC had announced in early July that the November 23 final, which was initially set to take place through a two-legged tie on November 21 and 27, would be played in the West zone, as it was forced to change the schedule due to the coronavirus-related issues across the continent.
The Asian football governing body had also confirmed that the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Asian elite clubs’ competition would be held in a centralized format in West and East.
Iran will be represented by Persepolis, Esteghlal, and Tractor in the round of 16 of the competition.
Esteghlal and Tractor will take on Saudi sides Al Hilal and Al Nassr, respectively, while Persepolis – runners-up in 2018 and 2020 – will away to Istiklol Tajikistan, the surprise package at this year’s tournament.
Esteghlal will face Al Hilal at the Zabeel Stadium – home ground of Emirati club Al Wasl – on September 13, with Tractor and Al Nassr going head-to-head at Doha’s Jassim bin Hamad Stadium a day later.
Political tensions between the two Persian Gulf states had seen Iranian and Saudi clubs squaring off in neutral venues since 2016, before Esteghlal and Foolad Khuzestan flew to Saudi Arabia in April to play their centralized group fixtures of the Asian elite clubs competition in Jeddah and Riyadh.