ACL Preview: Victory and Sydney face Chinese giants in fight to keep hopes alive

It could well be last chance saloon for the two Hyundai A-League competing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.

Both Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory require wins to remain a realistic chance of making it to the knockout stages of Asia’s premier club competition.

Victory will be the first Australian side in action on Tuesday when they host Guangzhou Evergrande at 7.30pm (AEST) before Sydney kick-off in China against Shanghai SIPG two hours later.

Let’s take a look at what both Aussie clubs will be up against.

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Adam Le Fondre fires Sydney FC ahead against Shanghai SIPG at Jubilee Oval
Adam Le Fondre fires Sydney FC ahead against Shanghai SIPG at Jubilee Oval

Can Sydney repeat their dazzling performance against stars of Shanghai?

Shanghai SIPG v Sydney FC, Tuesday 23 April, Shanghai Stadium

Sydney FC and Shanghai SIPG put on a show in their last AFC Champions League encounter at Jubilee Stadium with six goals scored across 90 action-packed minutes.

The action was literally end-to-end as the side’s traded goals with Shanghai’s Elkeson popping up in the 89th minute to ensure that the points would be shared.

While a promising performance from the Sky Blues, matching it with a side containing the likes of ex-Porto star Hulk and former Chelsea playmaker Oscar, it leaves them in a perilous position heading into match day four.

The Sky Blues have a fight on their hand to qualify from Group H, currently sitting in bottom position on two points after they drew their opener against Ulsan Hyundai 0-0.

Beat Shanghai in China, however, and Steve Corica’s men could rise as high as second depending on the result of the other Group H game between Ulsan and Kawasaki Frontale.

Shanghai, coached by former Porto manager Vitor Pereira, are unbeaten in this year’s continental showpiece, while domestically they sit in second place on the Chinese Super League ladder after five matches.

Sydney FC meanwhile are in good form in the Hyundai A-League, beating recently-crowned Premiers Perth Glory 1-0, and sewing up a top two spot and the very handy week off that comes with it.

Sydney FC

De Jong: Time to prove ourselves

Siem de Jong reflected on that six-goal thriller with Shanghai SIPG last time out, and the 0-0 opening round stalemate with Ulsan Hyundai, with regret but the Dutchman insists Corica's men haven proven they have what it takes to cause an upset.

"We should have won one of those games – especially the home games we played pretty well – but we didn’t get the three points and that’s the part that sucks a bit," de Jong said.

"It’s going to be a difficult one, but we still believe in it. We believe we can play well against these teams. I think we’ve shown it in all the games, but it’ll be tough game going to two away games and then another home game.

"We want to go through to the next round and of course it’ll be tough. We played well but didn’t get the points at home. We need to prove [we can get the points away from home] in the next two games."

How it stands - Group H

Opta Widget: ACL Group H

Anderson Talisca
Anderson Talisca dazzled in Guangzhou Evergrande's 4-0 triumph against Melbourne Victory.

Now or never for Victory 

Melbourne Victory v Guangzhou Evergrande, Tuesday 23 April, AAMI Park

The mountain is an even bigger one to scale for Melbourne Victory.

With no points on the board from three games, Kevin Muscat's side chances of qualifying are on life-support as they welcome Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande to Victoria.

Two weeks ago, Victory were taken apart by Fabio Cannavaro's charges in a devastating onslaught led by Portuguese superstar Anderson Talisca and ex-Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho.

That 4-0 defeat leaves Victory fans will little optimism heading into their crunch home tie against the two-time AFC Champions League winners, and Muscat admits Victory's display in China was not acceptable.

"After nine minutes the tie was dead. The game was done," Muscat said. "They hit the crossbar and scored two goals. All the preparation we did, we went across there early and, after nine minutes the tie was dead.

"You throw into the mix you’re away from home and playing against a good team with two or three world class individuals. It’s going to take a good performance from us and that’s the opportunity that lays ahead."

Land of opportunity

Muscat confirmed Victory will be without James Troisi, who is being treated for a hamstring tear, and he revealed some fringe players will get an opportunity to prove themselves at AAMI Park ahead of the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.

Even if Victory's chances of progressing are slim, captain Carl Valeri believes every game is important when the bigger picture is taken into consideration.

"You have to approach the game in the most professional manner possible and that’s focusing on the next thing, said Valeri. 

"Whoever plays, give it everything you’ve got. It’s a chance for other players who haven’t been playing a lot to show themselves. Also for us to build up some momentum."

How it stands - Group F

Opta Widget: ALeague