Al Ain to meet Ittihad in AFC Champions last 8

Al Ain to meet Ittihad in AFC Champions last 8

They are the first and only club to defend the title after they won their maiden one in 2004.

By James Jose

Published: Thu 29 May 2014, 11:41 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:21 PM

Al Ain’s Omar Abdulrahman and Al Jazira’s Khamis Ismail during their AFC Champions League Round of 16, 2nd leg match. — KT file

Inaugural champions Al Ain have been drawn against Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad in what is a rematch of the 2005 final, in the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League 2014.

The draw held at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, sees the record UAE League champions meet the Saudi heavyweights four times in this edition of the Asian competition. Back in 2005, Al Ittihad had beaten Al Ain to defend the title. They are the first and only club to defend the title after they won their maiden one in 2004.

This is the first time that Al Ain are in the quarterfinals since 2006. They are the only UAE representative in the knockout stage of this edition after Al Jazira and Dubai’s Al Ahli fell by the wayside. Al Ain had defeated Al Jazira 2-1 away and at home to make the cut.

Al Ain and Al Ittihad met in the group stage this season where Al Ain lost 2-1 away before coming away with a 1-1 draw at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Al Ain will welcome Al Ittihad for the first leg at the spectacular Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on August 19 before they travel to Saudi Arabia for the away leg on August 26 at the King Abdulaziz Sport City.

The first leg of the quarterfinals will be played on August 19 and 20, with the return on August 26 and 27. The west and east regions have been kept apart until the final. And Qatar’s Al Sadd, who won the tournament in 2011, were drawn against another Saudi club, Al Hilal.

The semifinals will be played on a home-and-away basis on September 16 and 17, with the second leg to be played on September 30 and October 1. The final will also be played over two legs, when the winners of the western semifinal will face off against the victors in the semifinal from the east of the continent.

The final will be played over two legs on October 25 and November 1, with the second leg to be hosted by the western team.

Meanwhile, Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande were drawn against Australian newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers as they bid to become only the second team to retain the trophy.

The Chinese champions received what appeared a kindly draw against the Wanderers, who have been the tournament’s surprise package in their run to the last eight on debut.

The other eastern zone tie pitches last year’s runners-up FC Seoul into a daunting derby clash against Korean double winners Pohang Steelers when the competition resumes in August. After hitting form in their 5-1 away victory over Japan’s Cerezo Osaka in the last 16, Guangzhou face an intriguing challenge from the Wanderers, who were formed just two years ago.

Coached by former Socceroo Tony Popovic, they topped their group and recovered from a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the last 16 to become only the second Australian club after Adelaide United to reach the quarter-finals. Korean sides have appeared in the last five AFC Champions League finals and one is assured of reaching the semis this year after Seoul were drawn against Pohang.

But while Seoul contested the last final, it is Pohang who are the team in form. The 2009 Asian champions lead the K-League Classic table and they beat Seoul, who are currently ninth, 1-0 in April.

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