Soccer-Saudis drawn together as Persepolis take on Pakhtakor in ACL

Sept 28 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has been guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League after Al Nassr and Al Ahli clubs were drawn to face one another in Wednesday’s quarter-finals in Doha.

Iran’s Persepolis will take on Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in the other quarter-final to be played in the west Asian half of this year’s coronavirus-affected competition, with both games to be played in the Jassim bin Hamed Stadium in the Qatari capital.

The semi-final will be on Oct. 3 with the winners due to face the leading club from east Asia in the final on Dec. 19.

Teams in the eastern half of the continent are scheduled to face off in a centralised group format from mid-November.

None of the teams remaining in the western section of the competition has ever won the title, with Persepolis losing in the final in 2018 to Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

Pakhtakor are appearing in the last eight of the competition for the first time since 2009 while Al Nassr and Al Ahli are aiming to keep the trophy in Saudi Arabia after the title was won last season by compatriots Al Hilal.

Al Hilal’s attempt to defend their crown came to an abrupt end last week when the club was deemed to have withdrawn from the competition when they were unable to field a team due to their squad being ravaged by COVID-19 infections.

Reporting by Michael Church Editing by Robert Birsel