Chinese Super League set for return after four-month break

HONG KONG, Dec 1 (Reuters) - The Chinese Super League will resume on Dec. 12, authorities announced on Wednesday, ending a four-month hiatus created to accommodate China's participation in World Cup qualifying.

Play in the top flight was halted on Aug. 15 to allow Li Tie's squad to host their preliminaries overseas due to strict COVID-19 quarantine regulations that have prevented China and their opponents from travelling in and out of the country.

China's stringent approach to the pandemic has also seen the format of this year's Chinese Super League altered, with teams split into two centralised groups of eight for the regular season ahead of the championship and relegation rounds.

Teams finishing in the top four in each group advanced to the championship phase while the bottom four will meet to determine who will feature in a pair of relegation playoffs.

Eight-time winners Guangzhou FC will take on Beijing Guoan, Changchun Yatai, Guangzhou City, Hebei FC, Shandong Taishan, Shanghai Port and Shenzhen in the championship rounds, which will be played in Guangzhou.

Cangzhou Mighty Lions, Chongqing Athletic, Dalian Pro, Henan Longmen, Qingdao FC, Shanghai Shenhua, Tianjin Tigers and Wuhan FC will feature in the relegation stage in Suzhou.

With the league due to expand from 16 to 18 clubs next season, the bottom two teams in the relegation phase will meet the third and fourth placed finishers from China League One to determine the final two berths in the top flight.

Matches in the relegation group will begin on Dec. 12 while games in the championship round start a day later. The final round of the championship stage is due to be completed on Jan. 3.

The relegation playoffs will be held over two legs. The first matches will be held on Jan. 7-8 with the return legs on Jan. 11-12.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Rohith Nair

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