New Delhi: I-League champions Dempo will play against the winner of West Asian sides Al Ittihad and Al Saad on February 19 for a place in the top-flight AFC Champions League play-offs after they were today handed a first round-bye in the play-offs.
According to the draw held in Kuala Lumpur, Syrian powerhouse and reigning AFC Cup champions Al Ittihad will lock horns with Qatar’s Al Saad in the first round West Zone play-off on February 12 and the winner will take on Dempo for a berth in the AFC Champions League.
If Dempo qualify for AFC Champions League, they will be clubbed in Group B along with ACL regulars Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan, Iran’s top side Esteghlal and debutants Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia.
If Armando Colaco’s men fail to qualify for AFC Champion League, they will play in the AFC Cup where they will be clubbed in a relatively easy Group F along with TSW Pegasus of Hong Kong, Song Lam Nghe An of Vietnam and VB of Maldives.
Dempo, Al Saad, Al Ittihad and United Arab Emirates Al Ain were earlier clubbed in the West Zone for the AFC Champions League play-offs but one side was shifted to the East Zone – which had only two sides in Thailand Premier League champions Muangthong United and Indonesia’s Sriwijaya.
Al Ain was picked in the draw of lots to choose the team to shift to the relatively easier East Zone, which was done to ensure that each zone comprise two sides.
Last year, Dempo lost to United Arab Emirates side Al Sharjah 0-3 in the AFC Champions League play-off.