Shanghai SIPG of China face Sukhothai FC of Thailand in a straight shoot-out for a spot in the group stages of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
2016 quarter-finalists Shanghai will meet with first-timers Sukhothai at Shanghai Stadium, as the Chinese team attempt to reach the Group Stage of Asia’s premier club competition for the second year in a row.
With Andres Villas-Boas installed as head coach and high profile signings in the shape of midfielder Oscar and defender Ricardo Carvalho, fans of the Red Eagles will be hoping their team can go all the way in 2017.
However, before any of that can happen, they need to get past Sukhothai.
And Villas-Boas is not taking that task lightly.
“We sent people to observe our opponent last week, so now we have some ideas,” the Portuguese boss said.
“We have prepared well. We had a two-week training camp in December in Shanghai, and we have had a five-week training camp after coming back from Doha. We have very good fitness preparation, and mentally too, for the forthcoming new season.
“It will be a one-match elimination. We have the advantage of playing at home. We have to treat it very seriously from the first minute onwards, and we can’t allow things like red cards.
“Our opponent has showed their quality in previous matches, I hope we can overcome them and qualify for the next round.”
Sukhothai, meanwhile, will be in high spirits after last week’s thumping 5-0 win over Myanmar’s Yadanarbon in the Preliminary Stage 2 phase.
Fans of the Thai FA Cup champions saw four different scorers at Thung Thalay Luang Stadium and will be hoping for an upset.
However, the odds are stacked against them. Their player budget is reportedly 68 times smaller than that of Shanghai. To give an insight into their level of professionalism, they only arrived in China less than 36 hours before kick-off after having problems getting visas.
Despite all this, Sukhothai Chairman Somsak Thepsuthin, is confident his players will give a good account of themselves.
“Shanghai is a strong team and have great players with World Cup experience,” Thepsuthin said.
“We are a club from Thailand but to play this level of opponent is a great chance for us, regardless of what happens. We have to give everything and perhaps there will be a surprise.
“It is about the chance to create history and bring glory to Thai soccer and the country.”
If Sukhothai are to cause a major upset, they will surely need goals from their Montenegrin maestro – Admir Adrović.
Kick-off is at 19:30 (HKT).