{jcomments off}perspolis news agency: The draw for the 2011 AFC Champions League took place on Thursday with Asia’s premier club competition once again serving up an intriguing blend of matches that brings together familiar foes, continental giants and ambitious newcomers.

Every draw for every tournament can claim a “group of death” and for the 2011 AFC Champions League it is undoubtedly Group A, which brings together Saudi giants Al Hilal, who reached the last four of the 2010 competition, 2007 ACL finalists Sepahan, Qatar’s Al Gharafa and Al Jazira of the UAE.

Al Hilal, Sepahan and Al Gharafa won their respective league titles while Al Jazira finished runners-up to Al Wahda in the UAE Premier League.

Group B completes the West Asia side of the draw and sees AFC Champions League ever-presents Pakhtakor pooled with Iran’s Esteghlal, ACL debutants Al Nassr from Saudi Arabia and the winner of the West Zone play-off which will be determined on February 19.

With the honour of competing in Asia’s premier club competition having to be earned with a successful domestic campaign Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, 3-1 conquerors of Zob Ahan in the 2010 final in Tokyo miss the chance to defend their crown after losing to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the second round of the K-League play-offs.

The Motors, one of 16 teams returning to the competition from last year, claimed third place in the K-League to qualify to the ACL for a fifth time and Tuesday’s draw saw the 2006 continental champions in Group G, with newcomers Cerezo Osaka, Indonesian champions and Shandon Luneng for company.

Korean champions FC Seoul, making their second appearance in the ACL after reaching the quarter-finals in 2009, have also been pooled with tournament newcomers in the shape of Hangzhou Greentown while Japan champions Nagoya Grampus and the winners of February 19’s play-off between inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain and either Muangthong United and Sriwijaya make up Group F.

Korea’s third representatives in the competition Jeju United are also ACL debutants and their first continental campaign brings them up against 2008 champions Gamba Osaka, China’s Tinajin Teda and Melbourne Victory in Group E while Victory’s A-League nemesis Sydney FC is in a tough-looking Group H, where the 2009/10 double-winners will face Korea FA Cup champions Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Shanghai Shenhua of China and either the winner of the Emperor’s Cup or Kashima Antlers, who will take part if Japan’s knockout competition winner has already qualified for the ACL.

AFC Champions League 2011 – Group Stage draw
:

West Asia

Group A
۱ Al Hilal (KSA)
۲ Al Gharafa (QAT)
۳ Al Jazira (UAE)
۴ Sepahan (IRN)

Group B
۱ Esteghlal (IRN)
۲ Al Nassr (KSA)
۳ Pakhtakor (UZB)
۴ Winner of West Play-off

Group C
۱ Al Wahda (UAE)
۲ Piroozi (IRN)
۳ Al Ittihad (KSA)
۴ Bunyodkor (UZB)

Group D
۱ Al Rayyan (QAT)
۲ Emirates (UAE)
۳ Zob Ahan (IRN)
۴ Al Shabab (KSA)

East Asia

Group E
۱ Jeju United (KOR)
۲ Melbourne Victory (AUS)
۳ Gamba Osaka (JPN)
۴ Tianjin Teda (CHN)

Group F
۱ Hangzhou Greentown (CHN)
۲ FC Seoul (KOR)
۳ Winner of East Play-off
۴ Nagoya Grampus (JPN)

Group G
۱ Cerezo Osaka (JPN)
۲ Shandong Luneng (CHN)
۳ Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)
۴ Arema FC (INA)

Group H
۱ Sydney FC (AUS)
۲ Winner of Emperor’s Cup or Kashima Antlers (JPN)
۳ Shanghai Shenhua (CHN)
۴ Suwon Samsung Bluewings (KOR)

 

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