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The AFC Champions League is set to return. The 2020 edition began in February, but only two rounds were played due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The remainder of the campaign will see 32 teams compete in a centralised format. In West Asia, all matches will be staged in Qatar across two weeks from 14-30 September, with 16 sides vying for a place in the final. In East Asia, the competition will only resume on 15 November.

All eyes will be on defending champions Al Hilal’s clash with Pakhtakor as the action restarts on Monday. FIFA.com previews the forthcoming action.

Qatar 2022 Stadiums

All matches in West Asia will be staged in four stadiums across Qatar – three of which will host FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ matches, namely Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan. The latter, in fact, saw its first official match played on 4 September with Al Sadd SC running out 5-1 winners over Al Kharaitiyat in the 2020/21 Qatar Stars League’s seasonal opener.

Players to watch

Bafetimbi Gomis was the competition’s leading marksman last season, and he has three goals in two appearances this one – both Al Hilal victories. Hassan Al Haydos, who scored three times as Al Sadd opened up with two wins, is another to keep an eye on, while Al Nassr’s Moroccan striker Abderrazaq Hamdallah has excelled on both domestic and continental fronts this year, notably topping the Saudi Pro League scoring chart with 29 goals.

Debutants

Perth Glory, Shabab Al Ahli, Shahr Khodro and Vissel Kobe are all participating in the AFC Champions League for the first time. While the former trio are on zero points from two games, the Emperor’s Cup holders have beaten both Johor Darul Ta’zim and Suwon Bluewings.

Former winners

This campaign features six former winners since the competition was transformed into the AFC Champions League in 2003. Aside from Al Hilal, Al Ain, Al Sadd and Ulsan Hyundai enter the competition hoping to recapture continental glroy, while Guangzhou Evergrande and Jeonbuk Motors aim to win it for a third time.

What they said

“Al Sadd is the biggest club in Qatar and it’s a great honour to be part of this club. We have to try to win everything, all the titles. I will try my best every day to help the team.”

Santi Cazorla, Al Sadd coach

“It was a long season and very tough, and after a long period of inactivity we are working very hard. We concentrated on the league and won the title and now we are concentrating on the AFC Champions League.”

Razvan Lucescu, Al Hilal coach

Groups:

Group A: Al Ahli, Al Shorta, Al Wahda, Esteghlal

Group B: Shabab Al Ahli, Shahr Khodro, Al Hilal, Pakhtakor

Group C: Al Duhail, Sharjah, Persepolis, Al Taawoun

Group D: Al Ain, Al Sadd, Sepahan, Al Nassr

Group E: FC Seoul, Beijing FC, Melborne Victory, Chiangrai United

Group F: FC Tokyo, Ulsan Hyundai, Shanghai Shenhua, Perth Glory

Group G: Vissel Kobe, Johor Darul Ta’zim, Guanzhou Evergrande, Suwon Bluewings

Group H: Yokohama F. Marinos, Jeonbuk Motors, Sydney FC, Shanghai SIPG

* Al Wahda have informed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that they are unable to travel to Qatar as several members of the club tested positive for COVID-19. The matter will now be referred to the relevant AFC committees for a decision in accordance with the regulations.

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Mike Tyson nearly knocks out trainer while preparing for exhibition fight against Roy Jones Jr.

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Mike Tyson is set to return to the ring on Nov. 28 when he takes on Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition fight. Iron Mike has been aggressively training for the fight and it looks like he’s in the best shape of his life. Just ask his trainer.

Tyson has been posting videos showcasing his training in the lead-up to the fight. On Wednesday, a clip showed Tyson sparring with trainer Rafael Cordeiro and, unfortunately for Cordeiro, Tyson accidentally caught him with a hook:

As you can see, Cordeiro stumbles back after Tyson connects on the huge right hand. Tyson, 54, certainly still appears to have the speed and power that made him one of the most dangerous boxers in the sport’s history.

While the upcoming bout against Jones Jr. is an exhibition fight, Tyson appears to be taking it very seriously and the boxing world is taking notice.

WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring commented on the video, writing “Somebody send Mike a reminder that this is an exhibition.” In addition, Danny Williams, who knocked out Tyson prior to his retirement in 2005, believes that Tyson could “seriously hurt” Jones Jr. when the two face off in the ring in November.

Jones Jr. even recently admitted that he may have “made a mistake” by accepting the fight with Tyson.

“He’s still Mike Tyson, he’s still one of the strongest, most explosive people who ever touched a boxing ring,” Jones Jr. old Sky Sports. “If anything, I made a mistake going in with him. He’s the bigger guy, he’s the explosive guy.”



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IPL 2020 – Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming says it’s like every game is like an away game

Adaptability, picking the right personnel and reading pitches correctly in the absence of home ground advantage will be key to success at IPL 2020, according to the Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming.

“This season is going to be very different tactically,” Fleming told the Super Kings website. “With no real home ground advantage here, we’ve got to be very good at adapting to the conditions in each ground. We’ve got three different grounds (Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi) to assess and each ground has its own character and nuances, and we’ve just got to be good enough to pick the right team and get the right game plan to match that. It’s like every game is an away game.”

Apart from not having been able to train in Abu Dhabi – the venue of their tournament opener against the Mumbai Indians on Saturday – a lot of the Super Kings’ first-choice players – including Shane Watson, MS Dhoni , Ambati Rayudu and Deepak Chahar- have been away from the game longer than some others. Add to it the challenges of playing in Abu Dhabi without having seen the wicket or assessed the conditions – something Mumbai have had the chance to do because they’re based there.

“It’s one of the challenges of having to travel to Abu Dhabi – we’ve got to have to be very good on the day to have to assess the wicket and pick the right combination,” Fleming said. “One of the big challenges for IPL teams is to get the combinations right.

“There are a lot of skillful players that make the side, but there are also a lot of skillful players that don’t. Picking the right side for the right conditions is one of the great challenges and we’ve got a good record at that. But I must admit, going to Abu Dhabi without seeing the wicket or assessing the conditions is going to be one of the big challenges to start with.”

That said, Fleming also believes the Super Kings will be able to cover up for the lack of match time by their combined wealth of experience. For the record, Mumbai have come up trumps in the last two meetings between the sides. “We’ve got experienced players, and experienced players identify key times and that’s why they’ve done so well in their careers – that they can turn games, absorb pressure or just sum out the situation. That’s what experience is about and that’s why we value it so highly.

“And that’s why we’ve been able to get over the line in so many close games because the key player has been one with a lot of experience. And you also mix that with skill. You are conscious of having a skillful side and adding youth when we can and with that get the balance pretty right.”

The lead-up to the Super Kings’ campaign has been chaotic. Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh opted out of the season for different reasons while two players – Ruturaj Gaikwad and Deepak Chahar – along with a number of support staff members tested positive. Among all teams, the Super Kings have trained the least in the UAE, having only been able to begin on September 6 after extended quarantine periods. But Fleming doesn’t think this will be a disadvantage.

“It has been different, and that’s been part of the challenge – understanding the unknown,” Fleming said of their build-up. “We didn’t get off to a great start, with some positive Covid-19 cases, but I think we dealt with it very well.

“We were calm around our approach, looked after the players and staff very well, and the rest of the players were calm in the hotel room. There was a bit of anxiety wanting to get out and train. It is what it is, and the players dealt with it very well. On hindsight, the amount of pre-season training that we’ve done up to now, and the extra few days in the room, was probably a blessing.”

Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, doesn’t believe the past will have any bearing on how his team will perform in this year’s IPL though they had lost each of their five games in the UAE in 2014, the last time the tournament was played in the country.

“We didn’t have a great experience last time yes, but it’s a different team now,” Rohit said at the pre-tournament press conference on Thursday. “The thought process is different. Six years is a lot of time. Like I said, it’s about understanding pitches and conditions, that is crucial so we are putting a lot of emphasis on that.

“Eventually the pitches will play a big part, so understanding and adapting quickly is important. But yes, the past won’t play any part – it was just myself, Kieron Pollard and Jasprit Bumrah from that team. I think Bumrah played just one game. So the team is different, the staff is different [and] thought process is different. Looking forward to a great IPL.”

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Bryce Harper hits two home runs, but Phillies come up short vs. Mets, 10-6

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