Chinese Super League to start COVID-delayed season on June 3

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HONG KONG : The new Chinese Super League season will begin on June 3 in three centralised hubs as professional football makes it return despite the country's ongoing battle to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cities of Dalian, Haikou and Meizhou will host the 18 teams in the top flight of Chinese football, according to an announcement made on the league's official social media account on Monday.

The start to the season has been delayed due to the Chinese government's determination to follow a zero-COVID strategy that has forced many cities across the country into lengthy lockdowns to limit the spread of the virus.

Chinese football has been heavily impacted by restrictions put in place during the pandemic, with foreign players and coaches leaving the league rather than endure stringent quarantining upon their arrival in China.

The 2020 and 2021 seasons were also affected, with both campaigns held in bio-secure centralised hubs after lengthy delays to their expected start dates.

Teams have already travelled to their designated venues ahead of the new season and have resumed training following quarantine stints.

Shandong Taishan are the defending champions and will be among the favourites to claim this year's title alongside Shanghai Port.

Several clubs, however, are expected to struggle due to financial constraints, including eight-time champions Guangzhou FC. Owned by heavily-indebted property developers China Evergrande Group, Guangzhou finished third last season but have since released many of their foreign players and will field a side made up largely of local players and academy graduates.

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