AFC Champions League: Al Ain to square off against Al Hilal in quarterfinals
AFC Director of the National Team Competition Shin Mangil holds the name card of Al Ain FC (UAE) during the draw for the 2017 AFC Champions League Knockout stage, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday.
Dubai - It will be a rematch of the 2014 semifinal between 2003 champions Al Ain and Al Hilal, which the Saudi Arabian side won 4-2 on aggregate
Inaugural champions Al Ain will square off against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal in the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League, it was announced on Tuesday.
The draw for the knockout stage of the competition was held at AFC's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Tuesday and it is set to be a rematch of the 2014 semifinal between 2003 champions Al Ain and Al Hilal, which the Saudi Arabian side won 4-2 on aggregate. Al Hilal went on to finish runners-up behind Australia's Western Sydney Wanderers in that edition.
Al Ain will have the home advantage when they take on Al Hilal in the first leg at home - at the iconic Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on August 21. The return leg will be played out at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on September 11.
Al Ain had stormed into the last eight after overturning a solitary goal deficit to wallop Esteghlal of Iran 6-1 in the return leg at home. Earlier, The Boss had come through the group stages by topping Group C with three victories and three draws.
Meanwhile, Al Hilal, who were Group D toppers, with three wins and three draws, had qualified for the quarterfinals after defeating Esteghlal Khouzestan of Iran 4-2 on aggregate. They had scored identical 2-1 wins over both the legs.
The other quarterfinal from West Asia pits Iran's Persepolis against Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli on August 22, with the second leg on September 12.
The semifinal first leg, which pits the winners of the clashes between Al Ain and Hilal and Persepolis and Al Ahli, will take place on September 26, with the second leg on October 17.
The teams to make the cut from East Asia are 2015 champions Guangzhou Evergrande of China, Japan's Kawasaki Frontale, China's Shanghai SIPG and Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan. And it will be an all-Chinese and all-Japanese quarterfinals with Shanghai SIPG meeting Guangzhou Evergrande, while Kawasaki Frontale take on Urawa Red Diamonds. The first legs will be on August 22 and 23, while the second legs will be held on September 12 and 13.
The double-legged semifinals are on September 27 and October 18.
The final, which too will be held over two legs, are on November 18 and November 25.
Meanwhile, the quarterfinals will see the introduction of the Additional Assistant Referee (AAR) system. It will mark the first time that the system will be used in Asia. The use of the AAR was approved by the AFC Referees Committee in September. "The AAR system, which will be implemented from the last eight to the eagerly-anticipated final, aims to strengthen the support for referees and enhance the decision-making process, particularly in the penalty and goal-line area," the AFC said in a statement.
The AAR system will see the referee, the two linesmen and the fourth official being assisted by two AARs, who will be positioned along the goal-line in each half.
The AFC is also planning on using the system at the 2018 AFC Cup and the 2017 AFC Under-23 Championship, with an eye on the AFC Asian Cup to be held in the UAE in 2019.