Far from diluting the competition pool, the new teams in the expanded AFC Champions League showed they can match up against the tournament's best.
Former champions Al Hilal were held to a 2-2 draw by tournament debutants AGMK from Uzbekistan.
Ahead of the start of West Zone action in AFC Champions League 2021, we look at the five major talkings points from Asia's premier club competition.
Defending champions Al Hilal, which had 15 players test positive for COVID-19 last week, was forced to withdraw from the AFC Champions League.
With 15 players in quarantine Al Hilal managed to secure the point they needed to advance to the knockout stages.
Al Hilal, fielding a weakened roster after several players tested positive for COVID-19, settled for a 1-1 draw against Pakhtakor Tashkent.
Al Hilal picked up where they left off in the AFC Champions League with a win over Pakhtakor as the West Zone resumed play after a six-month delay.
Santi Cazorla joining Al Sadd could cause a shift in the West Zone as numerous clubs look to unseat Al Hilal's reign at the top.
Here's everything that has happened in the West Zone over the past six months as Saudi giants Al Hilal look to continue their run.
Monterrey won their FIFA Club World Cup third-place play off against Al-Hilal on penalties following a 2-2 draw in regular time on Saturday.
Brazilian champs Flamengo came from behind to beat Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal 3-1 on Tuesday and book their place in the final of the Club World Cup.
A goal by substitute Bafetimbi Gomis gave Asian champions Al Hilal a 1-0 win over Esperance and took them into the Club World Cup semifinals.
Al Hilal won the Asian Champions League for the first time on Sunday as a 2-0 win against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Milos Degenek's Saudi Arabian adventure is coming to an end with the Socceroos defender poised to return to Serbian team Red Star Belgrade.
Sebastian Giovinco has hit out at former employers Toronto FC after being sold to Saudi Arabia giants Al-Hilal on Wednesday.
Socceroo Milos Degenek has signed a three-and-a-half year deal with Saudi Arabian powerhouse club Al Hilal.
United Arab Emirates hopes of winning 2019 Asian Cup dealt a major blow with an injury to Omar Abdulrahman.
U.A.E. fans may have been sorry to see Amoory leave Al Ain but ahead of the 2019 Asian Cup, there is some comfort as the playmaker is in fine form.
He's second only to Gonzalo Higuain in terms of loan fees paid, but few outside of Asia will get to experience the majesty that is Omar Abdulrahman.
Former Asian Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman has joined Al Hilal on a one-year loan deal from Al Ain, the Saudi Arabian club have announced.
Juan Antonio Pizzi has cut star playmaker Nawaf Al-Abed from Saudi Arabia's final 2018 World Cup squad of 23.
Syria's Omar Khrbin was named the AFC Player of the Year at the AFC's annual awards, with Tottenham's Son Heung-Min scooping the international award.
Rafael Silva's late goal secured Urawa Red Diamonds' first Asian Champions League crown in a decade as the J-League side defeated Al Hilal.
A knee injury has ruled out Al Hilal midfielder Carlos Eduardo from the second leg of the AFC Champions League final against Urawa Reds on Saturday.