Shanghai SIPG have it all to do in their second-leg match against FC Tokyo on Tuesday in the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League.
When the sides met last week at Tokyo’s Anjinimoto Stadium, Kota Mizunuma was the star of the show as his two goals for the hosts came either side of Wu Lei’s goal for the visitors. Tokyo’s 2-1 win has given them the advantage in this tie, but it is only a slim one.
Courtesy of their away goal last week, a 1-0 win for Shanghai on Wednesday would be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals. They have put the disappointment of the first-leg behind them after they showed great character to beat Hangzhou Greentown 1-0 on Saturday in the Chinese Super League, a competition they currently lie third in after accumulating 20 points in 10 games.
They will benefit from the experience of their manager Sven Goran Eriksson who is no stranger to the big occasion as he has previously been in charge of sides as big as the England national team. Speaking ahead of the game, the Swedish mastermind emphasised the importance of finding the right balance between defending and attacking.
“We lost our last encounter and the players were not happy about it but this is the fact,” started Eriksson.
“Tomorrow we have to score, to give an entertaining match. In the meantime we have to keep focusing on not only attacking but also a good defence.
“I believe we will qualify. The two teams are quite close, but we are playing at home and we are now in a very positive spirit.”
If Eriksson’s words are to ring true then he will surely need Elkeson and Wu to produce some of the form that has seen them both score four times in the AFC Champions League this year.
Meanwhile, a draw of any kind will suffice for FC Tokyo on Wednesday and they will fancy their chances of doing at least that. The Japanese outfit are currently in a purple patch, having not lost a game across all competitions in four outings. They have not played since the first-leg and so will be fresh and ready to go on Wednesday.
Surprisingly, Hiroshi Jofuku implied throughout his pre-match press-conference that he would set-up his team for a draw.
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“Luckily we won the first leg, so now we can qualify from a draw,” Jofuku said.
“We felt how strong Shanghai is from that game. Individually and tactically, they are a very good team and we have to play away. We are fully prepared for it, though, and don’t want to let down those fans who traveled here with us. I hope we can qualify tomorrow.
“Though we can make it even with a draw, it won’t be easy either. All our players are ready for a tough match.”
It would be ill-advised for Jofuku to park the bus completely as he has some fine attacking players like Masato Morishige and Mizunuma, who have four goals on the continent between them, at his disposal. Furthermore, his team have scored as many goals this year in Asia as they have conceded.
The match will get underway at 19:30 HKT.