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Shanghai get Champions League spot after Shandong barred

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – China’s Shanghai Port have been handed a play-off spot in the Asian Champions League after a rival club was expelled from the region’s top club tournament, officials said. 

Shandong Taishan were ejected from the competition earlier this month due to breaking a rule that clubs must not owe money to current or former employees, or the authorities. 

Shanghai, who initially missed out on the AFC tournament after finishing fourth in last year’s domestic championship, have now been given a berth in the play-offs in April.

The side — previously known as Shanghai SIPG — were Champions League semi-finalists in 2017 and won the Chinese Super League the following year.

Two-time champions Guangzhou FC have moved to Shandong’s former slot in Group J, the Asian Football Confederation said late Thursday, and will face Hong Kong’s Kitchee and Thailand’s Port FC. 

Instead of competing in the play-offs, Beijing FC progress automatically to the group stage, they said. 

Group matches for Asia’s premier club tournament kick off in mid-April and will be played in two centralised hubs due to coronavirus safety measures.

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