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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 11/12/2013

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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Al Suwaiq, the domestic league champion, faces a tough task in its bid to gain its maiden entry into the 2014 AFC Champions League (ACL) after the Omani club was drawn against Kuwait's top club, Al Qadsiya, in the first round of the playoffs.

Suwaiq, which is the first Omani club to make it to the ACL playoffs, will host its fancied rival at the Seeb Sports Stadium on February 2.

The draw for the ACL playoffs, along with that of the tournament proper, was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday.

If Suwaiq wins the match, it will have another tough playoff clash coming up, against leading UAE side Baniyas in the second round to be played in Abu Dhabi on February 8.

The winner of that game will advance to the third round of the playoffs, which will feature four teams vying for the two available spots in the ACL's main round from the west region. The third round is slated for February 15.

If Suwaiq fails to make it to the main event, it will still be eligible to compete in the group stages of the 2014 AFC Cup, the second-tier continental club event.

A new format for the ACL has enabled the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to increase the number of berths for Asia's premier club competition.

A total of 11 clubs will compete in the playoffs for the west, while eight teams will vie for the other two spots from the east.

Suwaiq and Qadsiya apart, the four other teams taking part in the first-round playoffs are Shabab al Ordon (Jordan), Al Hidd (Bahrain), Kuwait SC and Al Shorta (Iraq).

Three winners from the first round will join Baniyas (UAE), El Jaish (Qatar), Nasaf (Uzbekistan), Lekhwiya (Qatar) and Lokomotiv (Uzbekistan) in the second round. The top four teams after this round will then vie for the two ACL places.

The ACL will feature 32 teams, pooled into eight groups of four teams each in the west and east regions.

ACL main round (west): Group A: Esteghlal (Iran), Al Rayyan (Qatar), Al Jazira (UAE), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia).
Group B: Al Fateh (Saudi Arabia), Foolad Khouzestan (Iran), Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan) and Playoff winner.
Group C: Al Ain (UAE), Al Ittihad (Saudi Arabia), Tractorsazi Tabriz (Iran) and Playoff winner.
Group D: Al Sadd (Qatar), Al Ahli (UAE), Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Sepahan (Iran).


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