January 29 – The deadly coronavirus that started in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has killed over 130 people with 6,000 others affected has had an immediate effect on international football with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) changing the order of home matches to be played by Chinese clubs in the AFC Champions League group stage.
Those due to play at home on the first three match dates will now play away in a swop of fixtures, the AFC announced.
This year’s group stage gets under way on February 12 but Chinese Super League teams will not host games until April 7 at the earliest.
According to the revised schedule, Beijing Guoan will open their campaign at FC Seoul on February 11 and visit Melbourne Victory on March 3. Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande will travel to Suwon Bluewings on February 12.
Shanghai SIPG’s second group match will be at South Korea’s Jeonbuk Motors on February 19 and Yokohama F Marinos away after that, while Shanghai Shenhua will travel to Ulsan Hyundai for their second match on February 18.
Shanghai SIPG entered the group stage by winning a playoff match against Thailand’s Buriram United behind closed doors on Tuesday to reduce chances of infection. Both teams arrived at the ground wearing face masks.
“The decision, which was also made in conjunction with the competing clubs from the respective groups, is a precautionary measure to ensure the safety and well-being of all participating players and teams,” the AFC said in a statement, adding it will monitor the situation before deciding further on the home matches of Chinese clubs on the subsequent three match days.
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