Shandong Luneng face an uphill battle heading into the second leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-final clash with FC Seoul on Wednesday.
Shandong were beaten 3-1 in the first leg in Seoul on August 24 and will need a dominant performance on home soil to have any chance of progressing.
Pride is also on the line for Shandong as they are the last Chinese Super League club in the tournament following Shanghai SIPG’s exit on Tuesday after a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Shandong coach Felix Magath acknowledged that his side are teetering on the edge of elimination, but believes that an early goal could spark a comeback.
“If we can score first, it will change the whole scenario and anything is possible. On Wednesday night, we will do whatever it takes to change the scoreline,” he said.
“Although FC Seoul are a very aggressive side, and come here with the advantage in terms of scoreline, it won’t stop us being adventurous ourselves.”
To make matters worse, the Chinese Super League club will be without suspended midfielder Jin Jingdao while a number of players are also nursing minor injuries.
Despite this, Magath is confident that his side can pull off a come-from-behind win on Wednesday.
“We do have some injuries in the team, but we have a big enough squad to cope with this,” Magath said. “For forthcoming matches, we have prepared well and last Saturday, we used the league match to adjust our team for Wednesday’s important AFC Champions League game.
“The first 11 will change for sure. But I can’t tell you which players will start, it will ruin the surprise.
“We will have a consistent two halves, though, and I can only tell you with full confidence that we will send out a squad which is a match winner.”
FC Seoul, meanwhile, may have a two-goal cushion courtesy of goals from Dejan Damjanovic, Park Chu-young and the competition’s leading scorer Adriano, but coach Hwang Sun-hong is not taking anything for granted – especially as he has never guided a team into the semi-finals.
“We have to forget about what has already happened. Though we won the first leg, the second is equally important and we have to stay focused,” he said. “It will be very difficult to make choices between attacking and defending in this game, we have to maintain our balance.
“We have looked into the defensive side of our opponents and we hope we can take some advantage of any weaknesses they may have there. We are well prepared and we hope to get a positive result.”
Hwang has credited his side for their team effort throughout the tournament and believes that if they continue to work together, the sky is the limit as to what they can achieve.
“Not only Dejan Damjanovic, Adriano or Park Chu-Young are good players, the rest of the teams are also outstanding. I’m very proud of them,” he said. “It is important to have talented players, but what is more important is that the team is on the same page, fighting with the same mentality and thoughts. I will try to focus our team in that direction.”
Graziano Pelle (Shandong)
Having joined the club for an estimated fee of £12 million, there would be no better time for the Italian to make his presence felt. With three goals in the Chinese Super League, he has yet to open his account in the AFC Champions League.
Adriano (FC Seoul)
The top-scorer in the AFC Champions League with 10 goals, FC Seoul will look to their Brazilian star to add to his tally on Wednesday and lead the team into the semi-finals.