|Hà Nội FC players seen in a training on August 23 in Hà Nội. The national champions will play powerful rivals in the AFC Champions League this season. Photo of Hà Nội FC|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam champion Hà Nội FC are in a tough group at the AFC Champions League (ACL) after a draw conducted on August 24 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The draw saw the 40 teams divided into 10 groups - five each in the East and West Zones.
Each team will play six matches in the group stage, a home and away fixture against their three opponents in the group.
Hà Nội are in Group J with Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan, Wuhan Three Towns FC of China and Pohang Steelers of South Korea.
Urawa Red Diamonds are the defending champions who also won in 2007 and 2017. Pohang Steelers have won the ACL trophy three times in 1997, 1998 and 2009 and finished second once in 2021. Wuhan Three Towns were the Chinese champion in 2022.
The full schedule of the AFC Champions League group stage is yet to be announced while the tentative dates for the fixtures are from September 18 to December 13.
The 10 group winners along with the three best runners-up of each zone will book their places in the knockout stages, which will take place from February to April before the final is held over two legs on May 11 and 18, 2024.
The 2023-24 season will see the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in use from the group stage.
Also on August 24, an official draw for the AFC Cup was organised in Kuala Lumpur.
As many as 36 teams are divided into nine groups across the five zones.
Việt Nam's only representative Hải Phòng FC are against Hougang United of Singapore, Malaysia’s Sabah FC and Indonesia’s PSM Makassar. They will be vying for the automatic ASEAN Zonal semi-final spot in Group H.
The winners of the ASEAN Zone will move on to the Inter-zone Semi-finals, where they will be joined by the winners of Groups D, E and I; a Knockout Stage draw will be conducted to determine the two ties for this stage.
The two victors will play each other in the Inter-zone Final to earn the right to face the winners of the West Zonal Final in the AFC Cup 2023-24 Final on May 5 next year.
It is the first time that Hải Phòng competing in this continental tournament but their coach Chu Đình Nghiêm used to take charge of Hà Nội FC in the 2019 season. The team lost to April 25 FC of North Korea in the Inter-zone Semi-finals, which is the best result of a Vietnamese club at the AFC Cup. VNS