Southeast Asian media are reporting that Melbourne City are to receive a bye in the AFC Champions League due to the imminent withdrawal of Myanmar opponents Shan United.
Due to the unstable situation in Myanmar following February’s military coup, reports out of Yangon and Jakarta state that Shan will not be leaving the country to take on the A-League team in their preliminary play-off that had been put back from April to June 20 due to the global pandemic.
As the game was the first in the qualification process, it is not thought that there will be a replacement for Shan at this stage, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Asia.
While the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) did not officially confirm the withdrawal when contacted by The World Game, the Melbourne-Shan fixture has been removed from the preliminary play-off list on the organisation’s official home page as has information regarding the Taunggyi-based club.
United's departure would send City straight into a single-leg play-off with Cerezo Osaka either on June 21 or 23. The winner would enter Group J with Chinese powerhouse and two-time champion Guangzhou FC, Port of Thailand and Hong Kong's Kitchee.
The decision would mean that the Melbourne defence will be reunited with former Brisbane Roar striker Adam Taggart.
The Socceroo, who signed for the Kansai club in December from Korean powerhouse Suwon Bluewings, is set to make his debut for Cerezo in the derby against Gamba Osaka on May 2, after completing his quarantine period upon entry to Japan.
Brisbane Roar’s preliminary clash with Kaya FC-Iloilo is still scheduled to go ahead on June 21 with the winner of that tie going on to face Shanghai Port in the final play-off.
Myanmar’s Hanthawady United are also expected to withdraw from the play-off stage at the AFC Cup, Asia's second-tier club tournament, enabling Persipura of Indonesia to go straight to the group stage in the ASEAN Zone.