Asian Champions League makes full return as prelim, qualifying dates finalised

Hong Kong, June 21 (BNA): Hong Kong Premier League runners-up Li Man will host Haiphong, Vietnam, in the preliminary rounds of the AFC Champions League on August 15, as the continental club championship returns to full capacity after three cases of the virus. intermittent seasons.

The pair’s meeting will be the first of 13 preliminary and qualifying round matches ahead of the August 28 group stage draw, Reuters reports.

Travel restrictions during the pandemic have had a significant impact on competition and have seen the usual home-and-away format scrapped in 2020 in favor of matches played at bio-secure centres.

The 2022 final, in which Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds defeated Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, was the first match to be played over two legs since the 2019 edition.

The new campaign sees the group stage begin in September with the final match played the following May, breaking away from the traditional schedule which saw the tournament finish within a calendar year.

Defending champions Urawa will feature in the qualifying rounds on August 22 when they take on the winner of the Hong Kong Rangers’ clash with Indonesia’s Bali United.

The group stage, which includes 40 clubs divided into 10 groups across West and East Asia, is scheduled to start on September 18 and run until December 13, with the knockout rounds beginning on February 12.

The final will be played in two matches, on the 11th and 18th of May.

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