Kitchee set to replace Eastern in AFC Champions League

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Kitchee are expected to fill the void left by Eastern’s decision to relinquish the place they had earned in the 2017 AFC Champions League.

Eastern secured the right to take part in Asia’s premier club competition for the first time after winning the 2015/16 Hong Kong Premier League, but earlier this week relinquished their spot after losing the financial backing of former president Lai Tung-kwong.

Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) chief executive Mark Sutcliffe has said that Kitchee, who failed to make it past the qualifying rounds of the 2016 AFC Champions League, would in all likelihood replace Eastern.

“I doubt there will be a penalty from the AFC because we haven’t made the application yet. The competition doesn’t start until January. I think we have a very good replacement in Kitchee,” Sutcliffe told the South China Morning Post.

“They have played in the competition [the play-offs] before and have a Champions League club license. Subject to the AFC, Kitchee will play in the Champions League next season.”

He added: “From the Premier League perspective, obviously [Eastern’s decision] is a bit disappointing, maybe they will not be as competitive as they were last season, but they will still be competitive in the league.”