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Coronavirus: Asian Champions League matches postponed

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Asian Champions League

The impact of the coronavirus has forced the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to postpone the opening three Champions League fixtures involving Chinese clubs.

The tournament’s group stage is due to get underway on Tuesday next week, featuring four sides hailing from the Chinese Super League – Beijing Guoan, Guangzhou Evergrande, Beijing FC and Shanghai Shenhua.

The outbreak of the coronavirus in China means CSL teams will not be taking part in the opening three matchdays apart from Beijing FC, who have been training in South Korea and therefore may not need to be quarantined.

An AFC statement read:

“Representatives of the six Member Associations taking part in the AFC Champions League East decided to postpone matches involving Chinese clubs from the first three match days at an emergency meeting convened by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Tuesday.

“It was also decided that if matches, scheduled for Chinese teams, can be played as per the schedule then they will go ahead as planned – and so Chiangrai United’s match with Beijing will go ahead on Match Day 2 on February 18, 2020 but only as Beijing are currently in camp in Korea Republic and may not need quarantine measures.

“The AFC will continue to closely evaluate the impact of the outbreak, but it is proposed that the postponed matches involving clubs from China PR will be re-scheduled in April and May 2020. The East Zone Round of 16 matches are proposed for June 16 and 17 with the return leg on June 23 or 24.

“However, the representatives agreed that a deadline to assess the latest situation will be set 21 days before each match and if it is decided the game cannot go-ahead as proposed, the host club will have to nominate a neutral venue at least 14 days before the match day.

Some Asian Champions League games were scheduled to take place in Australia, including Sydney FC and Perth Glory’s curtain-raisers next week against Shanghai SIPG and Shanghai Shenhua respectively.

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However, the Australian government closed their borders for arrivals from China, making it impossible for the Shanghai clubs to enter the country and fulfil the fixture.

“We also accept that this coronavirus is a much bigger issue than just football and we wish all those who have been affected a speedy return to health.”

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UEFA Champions League: Barcelona player tests positive for Covid-19

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An unnamed Barcelona player has tested positive to COVID-19, though their upcoming Champions League clash with Bayern Munich is not in doubt.

According to the Spanish club, the player who tested positive was not included in Quique Setien’s final shortlist for Friday’s quarter-final tie against Bayern.

The statement released by Barcelona read;

“Following PCR tests conducted this Tuesday afternoon on the group of nine players due to begin the pre-season today, one of them has tested positive for Covid-19.

“The player has no symptoms, is in good health and has been quarantined at his home. The club has reported the matter to the relevant sporting and health authorities.

“All persons who have been in contact with the player have been tracked to perform the corresponding PCR tests.

“The player has not been in contact with any of the senior team players who are scheduled to travel to Lisbon this Thursday to compete in the Champions League.”

The statement also linked to a page confirming the nine players that had returned to pre-season training, including Pedri, Trincao, Matheus Fernandes, Jean-Clair Todibo, Moussa Wague, Carles Alena, Rafinha, Juan Miranda and Oriol Busquets.

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Valencia sell Coquelin to Villarreal

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Valencia have sold midfielder Francis Coquelin to La Liga rivals, Villarreal, a move that has heaped further criticism on owner Peter Lim over his management of the club.

Both teams announced on Wednesday that Coquelin, 29, has penned a four-year contract with Villarreal, who finished fifth last season to qualify for the Europa League and last month named former Arsenal manager Unai Emery as coach.

Coquelin joined Valencia in 2018 for 14 million euros after a 10-year stay at Arsenal. No financial details were given on his move to Villarreal but local media reported that the transfer fee was 8 million euros (7.23 million pounds).

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He made 36 appearances for Valencia in all competitions in a chaotic campaign for the club, who finished ninth and sacked manager Marcelino in September before dispensing with his successor Albert Celades in July.

Former Watford coach Javi Gracia was appointed as the club’s latest coach at the end of last month.

According to Spanish media reports, Valencia captain Dani Parejo is also set to join Villarreal, one of Valencia’s closest competitors, unleashing a new wave of criticism from supporters and former players against Singaporean billionaire Lim.

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Former Valencia goalkeeper Santi Canizares has led the criticism on social media, while supporters group Salvem Nostre Valencia (Let’s Save Our Valencia) has called for a protest later on Wednesday outside the club’s Mestalla stadium.

Lim, who bought the club in 2014, made the surprising decision to sack Marcelino last year soon after he led the club to Copa del Rey glory and qualification for the Champions League for a second consecutive season.

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Valencia also sold promising youngster Ferran Torres, believed to be one of the brightest hopes in Spanish football, to Manchester City earlier this month for 23 million euros.

Lim has also received criticism from the city’s vice mayor for failing to fund the construction of the club’s unfinished Nou Mestalla stadium where work began in 2007 but was halted in 2009 due to Spain’s economic crisis.

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Champions League: Mbappe ready for clash with Atalanta – Tuchel

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Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe is set for a sensational return to action for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League quarter-final clash with Atalanta on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old had been expected to miss out after suffering an ankle injury in the Coupe de France final win over Saint-Etienne on July 24.

However, PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has now suggested Mbappe is ready to play a role from the bench.

“If he has a good training session today and nothing extraordinary happens, he will be with the team tomorrow,” Tuchel told his pre-match press conference.

“We are very happy that he is with the group and that we can have the possibility of finishing the match with him.”

If Mbappe does feature, even if only from the bench, it will represent a remarkable change of fortunes for PSG.

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Tuchel has previously said he thought it would take a “miracle” for Mbappe to be fit in time for the game, as the French champions look to stake their claim for the European crown.

Having Mbappe back eases some of the pressure on Neymar, although Tuchel feels the Brazilian has the mindset and ability to carry the PSG attacking threat if needed.

“I have the impression that there is always a lot of pressure on him, but he likes it,” said Tuchel of Neymar. “He is used to playing with this pressure.

“We are very happy that Kylian is also with the group and that we can have the possibility to finish the match with him, because the two like to play together.

“Neymar is decisive on the big matches and I am convinced that he can be the key man for us. He has the necessary quality for this kind of situation.”

Mbappe has scored 30 goals and registered 18 assists in 34 games in all competitions for PSG this season, their top scorer ahead of Mauro Icardi and Neymar.

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