Wanderers set to continue ACL-domestic balancing act in Shanghai

Western Sydney Wanderers face big-spending Shanghai SIPG on Tuesday knowing they need at least a draw following a disappointing opening to their AFC Champions League campaign last week.

The 2014 ACL champions Wanderers were badly beaten on home soil last seven days ago, going down 4-0 to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.

After the game Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic among one of two Australian coaches coming in for severe criticism after making six changes for the tie – fielding what was effectively an understrength side ahead of an important domestic game as the Wanderers battle for an A-League playoff spot.

Still, Popovic insists that the challenge of juggling the A-League and the AFC is one he relishes.

“It’s a challenge, but it is a great period to be involved in,” Popovic said. “You embrace it because we earned the right to be in the ACL because of what we achieved in the A-League last season.”

Shanghai go into the game on the back of a tough 1-0 win over FC Seoul thanks to Brazilian Hulk’s spectacular long-range effort.

And even though they will likely face another understrength Warriors side, coach Andre Villas-Boas is not expecting an easy tie.

“I’ve seen the video [of the Urawa match], they should have been better than they were in the game against Urawa in the last match. They were the 2014 Asian Champions League champions, so we can’t underestimate such an opponent. We have to win the game tomorrow.”

Shanghai will be without defender He Guan who is suspended following a red card against Seoul, but Villas-Boas is confident his squad can cope.

“A mature team must know how to manage a situation like this,” he said. “Luckily we have tried different combinations in defence in our winter training.”

“We will make a choice before tomorrow’s game. I hope it will be the right one.”