Though Sydney FC go into the clash as favourites they must be wary

Shandong Luneng - Asian Champions League
Shandong Luneng - Asian Champions League press conference

<p=”text-align: justify;”>Tonight Sydney FC go into their Asian Champions League Round of 16 clash with Shandong as strong favourites. Last week the Sky Blues picked up a crucial away goal courtesy of David Carney, but the midfielder’s goal was later cancelled out by Brazilian forward Tardelli.

At Tuesday’s press conference Sydney FC manager Graham Arnold said his team were preparing for anything from their Chinese opponents.

“We have 4-5 plans for what may occur,” he said. Arnold was impressed with his team’s efforts last week and he made note of the exhausting schedule Shandong were currently undertaking.

On his own team he said, “Everyone is fit and mentally keen.” Arnold confirmed none of the squad from the first leg had injury concerns. Arnold appeared confident though he did state the season had been a, “test of character,” no doubt referring to the less than pleasing A-League conclusion.

Meanwhile Shandong manager Mano Menezes brushed aside queries over his team’s Chinese Super League form to draw attention to the club’s stellar record in the ACL. “We’ve played 9 games for 5 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss in the ACL so far, fifty/fifty for tomorrow,” he said. The Brazilian claimed his team would adapt to the ACL better than Sydney and they were happy to be here.

Later he was asked about his team’s win over A-League Champions Adelaide United earlier this year. “Adelaide won both A-League and the Grand Final, but Sydney are top of the group of death, and they beat Evergrande. It’s hard to compare,” Menezes said.

The Brazilian later qualified the importance of the match, comparing it to a final. For both teams it appears that way though, as Sydney FC looked to restore some pride after a disappointing domestic season. No doubt Arnold and the Sky Blues could use qualification for the quarter finals as a carrot to attract players in the off season.

Shandong Luneng
Shandong Luneng during training at Sydney Football Stadium.

Though Sydney FC go into the clash as favourites they must be wary. Last week not only did Shandong’s imports Montillo and Tardelli look dangerous so did the right side of Shandong. Both Liu, Binbin (11) and Zhao, Mingjian (2) caused considerable concern for 21 year old Riley Woodcock. The left back had just one A-League appearance and suddenly found himself thrust into the ACL spotlight.

For those that like to bet, this one might be one to steer clear of. On one hand Sydney FC have found it hard to score but have been solid defensively for most of the year. On the other hand Shandong need at least goal and are capable but have a leaky defence. A wise option would be to sit back and enjoy what should be an open and enthralling encounter.

Words, Tony Yang & Lew Dub


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