February 25 – Shanghai SIPG have formally been awarded China’s fourth qualification slot for the 2021 Asian Champions League following the removal of Shandong Luneng from the competition.
Shandong, who qualified by beating Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese FA Cup final, were barred from entry to the Champions League for failing to meet all its debts. Shanghai SIPG finished fourth in the 2020 Chinese Super League.
Shanghai’s entry sees a change in group teams with Guangzhou moving to the top seed spot held by Shandong in Group J with Port FC (Thailand), Kitchee (Hong Kong) and a play off winner. Guangzhou’s group place will be taken by Beijng FC.
The AFC has said that centralised venues will be used again for the group rounds that will see 40 teams compete, an increase of eight from last season, in 10 groups of four – five groups in each of the East and West zones.
No centralised venues have been announced and while Qatar hosted all groups in 2020, more than one venue looks likely for 2021 group hosting. West zone groups will be played from April 14 – 30, while the East Zone will start a week later playing April 21 to May 7.
The play-off games deciding the final group spots will be played the week before the groups begin.
The competition will then break until September when it restarts with round of 16 matches. The two-legged final will be played November 21 and 27 with the winner becoming the AFC’s representative in the second Club World Cup of 2021 in Qatar in December.
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