Sydney FC have marched into the Asian Champions League Knockout Stage overnight on account of Guangzhou Evergrande’s 2-nil win over Pohang Steelers. The Sky Blues cannot finish below 2nd due to the four point buffer between them and 3rd placed Guangzhou.
Tonight’s fixture between Sydney FC and Urawa Reds now has an interesting sub-plot. There is certainly less motivation for the Sky Blues to go out and put it all on the line, and manager Graham Arnold could be excused for resting some of his key players. However, that option is offset by the fact the team will not be playing regular matches every weekend as they’re not competing in the A-League Finals.
The Reds on the other hand will have to take at least a point from the match tonight in order to qualify for the Knockout Stage. At yesterday’s press conference Urawa manager Mihailo Petrovic expressed his respect for Sydney FC and Australia’s continually improving soccer scene.
The Reds come into this ACL match with five wins in their last seven outings including a win in their last Champions League fixture against defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande. We asked manager Petrovic how much confidence the team took from that win,”My opinion is they (Guangzhou Evergrande) have some big names that we don’t, but we and Sydney FC play as a team.
“We gain confidence by beating these Chinese giants because it proves that money isn’t everything in football,” he said.
Fullback Tomoaki Makino was also present for the press conference, and the showman promised a big performance from the Reds.
By taking all three points tonight Urawa will put themselves in the driver’s seat to finish first in the group. By winning Group H Urawa will avoid a meeting with red hot FC Seoul who are a certainty to win Group F. A first place finish in Group H will result in a meeting with improving Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng or J-League champs Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Tonight’s game kicks off at 8pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. 7pm Japan time.
Current Standing Group H
Sydney FC 9 (played 4)
Urawa Reds 7 (played 4)
Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao 5 (played 5)
Pohang Steelers 4 (played 5)