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Chinese Champions League qualifier to be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus

Shanghai SIPG players Oscar and Hulk will play their Champions League qualifier behind closed doors.

Shanghai SIPG will play their 2020 AFC Champions League playoff against Buriram United of Thailand on Tuesday behind closed doors as China tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has already claimed the lives of 41 people.

Buriram had requested to the Asian Football Confederation that the game be postponed due to the growing public health emergency but instead China's first game since the outbreak of the virus in the central city of Wuhan will take place behind closed doors after a decision made by Shanghai municipal authorities on Saturday.

The winner of the single-leg game will progress to the group stages but it remains to be seen what happens with the three Chinese teams already there. Beijing Guoan's first home game is on Feb. 11, Guangzhou Evergrande start the following day with Shanghai Shenhua hosting for the first time on Feb.18.

Sources have told ESPN that the AFC is currently in talks with the Chinese Football Association (CFA). One possible outcome is that the schedule will be changed to ensure all Chinese teams play their first three games in the group away from home, meaning that it will be April by the time they are in action on home soil.

Elsewhere, there have been other problems in Chinese football. The women's qualifiers in Asia for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, due to take place in early February, have been moved from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, to the eastern city of Nanjing.

While there has not yet been an official announcement, it is expected that the Super Cup, the traditional curtain-raiser to the Chinese season that was due to take place on Feb.5 between champions Guangzhou Evergrande and cup winners Shanghai Shenhua, will be postponed. It also remains to be seen if start of the Chinese Super League on Feb. 22 will be pushed back.

Other sports have been affected too, with the start of the 2020 Chinese Basketball season postponed.

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