AFC to extend group phase of Asian Champions League due to coronavirus


HONG KONG (Reuters) - Group stage matches in the Asian Champions League could be held as late as the end of July, the Asian Football Confederation said on Monday, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact the schedule of the continent's leading club competition.

The confederation said after an emergency meeting at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur that provisions would be made to extend the group phase beyond its scheduled finish in late May until the end of June.

However, if local league and cup matches continue to be postponed in Japan, South Korea and China, provisions have been put in place to play the Asia Champions League matches as late as July to ensure the competition can be completed this year.

The confederation said it expects to have a newly updated fixture list for the group phase of the competition in place by March 16 after a meeting to be held next weekend.

The AFC announced the first leg matches in the round of 16 will now be played on August 11 and 12 with the return meetings two weeks later, while the first leg of the quarter-finals will be held on September 15 and 16. The second legs will be played on September 29 and 30.

Semi-final matches will be played on October 20 and 21 with the return clashes a week later, with the dates of the two-legged final unchanged on November 22 and 28.

The fate of a raft of World Cup qualifying matches due to be played later this month will be discussed during a meeting on March 7 and 8.

(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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