Asian Champions League: Virus-hit Al-Hilal set to advance

Despite missing 10 players due to the coronavirus, Asian Champions League titleholder Al-Hilal is confident of advancing to the knockout stage on Sunday.

The team from Riyadh remained on top of Group B after drawing with Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan 0-0 on Thursday without a backup goalkeeper. All three understudies to Abdullah Al-Mayouf tested positive for COVID-19 and went into self-isolation.

Al-Hilal was allowed by the Asian Football Confederation to draft two more goalkeepers as emergency cover on Friday. The team on Sunday plays Shahr Khodro of Iran in their Qatar bubble. Al-Hilal is expected to handle a side which has failed to score in four games.

“What the players have done so far in the exceptional circumstances that we are going through has been unbelievable,” Al-Hilal coach Razvan Lucescu said.

“The absences we have will not stop our efforts to go as far as we can in the tournament as we try to defend our title,” the Romanian added. “We are remaining calm in these circumstances and are focused on getting the results we need — starting on Sunday.”

Other teams also have coronavirus issues: Al-Duhail of Qatar has had one player test positive and Al-Wahda of the United Arab Emirates had to withdraw from Group A after an outbreak meant it was unable to travel.

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