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Neymar’s Al Hilal Set to Face Mumbai FC in AFC Champions League, Bringing Star Power to Indian Football

Mumbai FC to Clash with Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal, Featuring Neymar, in AFC Champions League Showdown

NEW DELHI: Indian football enthusiasts are in for a treat as the excitement builds up for an exhilarating clash in the AFC Champions League. Mumbai FC is gearing up to face off against the formidable Al Hilal, a Saudi Arabian powerhouse boasting none other than Brazilian superstar Neymar in their ranks. The draw has sparked a buzz of anticipation as Mumbai FC players and coaching staff realize they could soon be sharing the field with one of the world’s football icons.

Al Hilal, fresh from securing the third-place finish in the 2022–23 Saudi Pro League, has made waves by signing Neymar, the former Barcelona FC sensation who clinched the UEFA Champions League title during his time with the Catalan giants. Notably, Neymar’s recent club history includes stints at Paris Saint-Germain alongside luminaries like Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.

This AFC Champions League encounter carries an extra layer of significance as Al Hilal is the most decorated team in the tournament’s history. With four championship titles and five runner-up finishes, Al Hilal’s prowess is undisputed.

The forthcoming season holds promise for Al Hilal with a strengthened squad featuring marquee signings such as Neymar Jr, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Yassine Bounou, and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

The AFC Champions League group stage, played on a home-and-away basis, could potentially see Neymar taking the field at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, the home venue of Mumbai City FC. For Indian football aficionados, this presents an unparalleled opportunity to witness Neymar’s magic on Indian soil.

Joining Mumbai FC and Al Hilal in Group D are FC Nassaji Mazandaran of Iran and PFC Navbahor Namangan of Uzbekistan. The draw for the AFC Champions League 2023-24 group stage unfolded at the Asian Football Confederation headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Mumbai City FC’s consecutive qualification for the AFC Champions League group stage follows their ISL 2022-23 League Shield victory and a decisive play-off against Jamshedpur FC.

On a parallel note, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Saudi team, Al Nassr, finds themselves pitted against Persepolis FC of Iran, Al Duhail SC of Qatar, and FC Istiklol of Tajikistan in Group E. Out of the five West Zone groups, the ten group winners and the three best runners-up will advance to the round of 16.

Mumbai City FC’s remarkable achievements in the previous season included victories over Al Quwa Al Jawiya of Iraq, securing second place in Group B with seven points.

A significant structural shift in the competition format announced by the Asian Football Confederation means that no Indian club will have a direct entry into Asia’s top-tier club competition from the upcoming season onward.

In the AFC Cup draw’s second-tier action, Indian clubs Odisha FC and Mohun Bagan Super Giant have been grouped with Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh and Maziya S&RC of Maldives. Their path to the competition involved triumphs in the Super Cup 2023 and subsequent playoffs.

As the AFC Cup group stage kicks off, Odisha FC will call the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar their home, while Mohun Bagan will play their matches at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

Football aficionados and enthusiasts alike are eagerly awaiting these showdowns, as star power, skilled gameplay, and intense competition take center stage in the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.

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