I-League side Bengaluru FC have discovered their opponents for the upcoming Asian Champions League campaign, with the tournament draw earlier today pitting the Indian club against Jordan’s Al Wehdat in the second round of the playoffs.
Bengaluru FC made an impressive run in the 2016 edition of the AFC Cup, which is the second-tier of Asian continental football. They reached the finals of the tournament, beating fancied sides like Johor Darul Takzim of Malaysia and Tampines Rovers of Singapore, ultimately losing to West Asian opponents Air Force Club of Iraq in the finals.
The extraordinary run of the Indian side in the AFC Cup has now been rewarded with a spot in the qualifying rounds of the 2017 Asian Champions League, Asia’s premier club competition. The tie will be single-legged, with the Bengaluru side playing away. The winners of the tie will go on to play the final qualifying round, and they will be up against UAE side Al Wahda. The winners of the final round will feature in the group stages of the 2017 Asian Champions League.
Al Wehdat is the reigning Jordanian league champions and has won their national league the last three years in a row, while they have been national champions 15 times overall. They have also featured in the AFC Cup previously. They reached the semi-final of the tournament in 2011, while they made the quarter-finals of this year’s edition.
West Asian sides are generally to be of a much higher standard as compared to sides from the rest of the continent. Although Al Wehdat only has one foreigner in their ranks as compared to Bengaluru’s three, the Indian side will still face a massive challenge in their quest to reach the group stages of the 2017 ACL.
A loss in either of the qualifying rounds will see Bengaluru FC drop down to the group stage of the AFC Cup. With the tournament format changing for next year, Bengaluru will likely face Maldivian side Maziya FC, Bangladesh’s Albani Dhaka Limited, and one side from the trio of India’s other club Mohun Bagan, Sri Lanka’s Colombo FC, Bhutan’s Thimpu City and Maldives’ Club Valencia.