Reigning champions Al Hilal kicked out of AFC Champions League after naming line-up with NINE players due to Covid-19

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Al Hilal AFC Champions League Winners 11242019
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The club failed to name a squad of the minimum 13 men following a series of positive tests which left a severely weakened squad

Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal have been kicked out of the AFC Champions League after a coronavirus outbreak saw the team name just nine players in the starting line-up for a match on Wednesday.

Al Hilal had only eight outfield players to start Wednesday's match against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, with a pair of goalkeepers named on the bench.

The club's weakened line-up came in the wake of a massive coronavirus outbreak, with 15 players testing positive for the virus in recent days.

Following a series of positive tests, the AFC allowed Al Hilal to add two goalkeepers to replace those who had tested positive for Covid-19 and worked with the Qatar Football Association to secure a timely arrival in Doha for two players and two officials who had not travelled.

Al Hilal are the current title holders in the AFC Champions League, having defeated Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds in the final last season. However, the club has now been booted from this season's competition.

Al Hilal and the Saudi Arabian federation requested a postponement of the match but, according to the AFC, a total of 13 players must be named in the squad for a club to participate.

“If a participating team or club has less than 13 players (including one goalkeeper) available for a match for any reason (whether or not relating to Covid-19), the relevant club shall not be able to participate in the match," the federation said in a statement.

"Such a participating team or club shall be held responsible for the match not taking place and shall be considered to have withdrawn from the relevant competition. The relevant participating team or club and its affiliated member association shall be subject to the provisions of the relevant competition regulations, as applicable."

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As a result of Al Hilal's forfeiture, Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai have progressed to the Round of 16 from Group B.

Al Hilal's squad features the likes of French striker Bafetimbi Gomis, Italian star Sebastian Giovinco and Peruvian international Andre Carrillo. 

They had travelled to Qatar on September 11 to complete the Champions League tournament, similar to how the European version was finished in a special mini-competition, however in the subsequent days the majority of the squad tested positive for the virus.

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