What's the story?
Last season's I-League champions, Aizawl FC, are all set to feature in their first continental play-offs when they face off against Al-Faisaly of Jordan in the preliminary round of the AFC Champions League January next year. The North-East club stunned everyone last year to claim the I-League title and will now play in the most elite club competition in Asia.
In case you didn't know...
Aizawl FC qualified for the qualifying rounds of the AFC Champions League after winning the I-League last year. They are currently playing the on-going season of the I-League, where they held Kolkata giants East Bengal to a 2-2 draw at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Tuesday.
The heart of the matter
The fixtures of the upcoming AFC Champions League have been declared and I-League winners Aizawl FC will play against Jordan’s Al-Faisaly in the preliminary round from the western region on January 16. Al-Faisaly are the most successful club in Jordan having won in numerous domestic titles and are also a two-time AFC Cup champions.
AFC Champions League is the biggest club tournament in Asia, and it will be a huge task for Aizawl FC to even win a single encounter in the competition. Last year Bengaluru FC lost to Al-Wehadat of Jordan 2-1 to crash out in the preliminary round itself.
With the I-League and Mizoram Premier League fixtures being scheduled simultaneously, the fitness of the players always become a serious issue. Aizawl's Portuguese coach Paulo Jorge Coelho Menezes will have his task cut out to keep his players fit for the entire season to ensure that he can field the best possible XI in the AFC Champions League.
Most of the players from the I-League winning squad have left Aizawl FC, even their coach Khalid Jamil. It is a new set-up and will take some time to settle down as a free-flowing football team.
Though the chances of them progressing further in the AFC Champions League are slim, yet they can give their best shot if the team develops a productive unit in the upcoming matches of the I-League before they face the Jordan-based club.