Ceres-Negros stun Brisbane to set up Tianjin decider

Ceres-Negros are now one win away from qualifying for the 2018 AFC Champions League after stunning Brisbane Roar 3-2 in Tuesday’s second preliminary round qualifier.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 23: Ceres Negros player Omid David Nazari celebrates scoring a goal during the AFC Asian Champions League Preliminary Stage match between Brisbane Roar and Ceres-Negro at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre on January 23, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

It initially looked as though Ceres were in for a difficult night at the QSAC after the A-League outfit were handed a 35th-minute lead when Massimo Maccarone converted a Brett Holman cross.

However, Bienvenido Maranon equalised for the Philippine champions when he capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to score two minutes before halftime, and then and struck again with a fine curling effort past Jamie Young in the 65th minute.

More sloppy defending by the Roar, as they failed to adequately deal with a corner, lead to Omid Nazari adding a third for the visitors from inside the six-yard box ten minutes later.

And, while Eric Bautheac did well to pull one back for Brisbane in the 86th minute, it proved to be too little too late as they fell to a shock defeat which ends their hopes of continental football for a second consecutive season.

Meanwhile, Ceres now face Chinese giants Tianjin Quanjian next Tuesday knowing that a win will be enough to send them into Group E, where Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Kitchee await them, along with another playoff qualifier.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 23: Ceres Negros player Bienvenido is congratulated by team mates after scoring a goal during the AFC Asian Champions League Preliminary Stage match between Brisbane Roar and Ceres-Negro at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre on January 23, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Ceres Negros coach Vidakovic ready to take on the Roar

Scott McIntyre Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre talks to Ceres Negros coach Risto Vidakovic ahead of their AFC Champions League second preliminary round match with Brisbane Roar on Tuesday.

In the midst of all the turmoil surrounding football in the Philippines there’s a glimmer of hope and genuine excitement in at least one corner of the country as champions Ceres-Negros continue on their Asian Champions League qualification path tomorrow when they play A-League outfit Brisbane in Australia.

Having eased past Myanmar side Shan United on penalties last week they face a far sterner challenge in the form of the Roar, but even with a limited preparation and the odds firmly stacked against them there’s a genuine belief in the squad that they will make things quite difficult for their Australian opposition.

Speaking exclusively with FOX Sports Asia from the northern Australian city, Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic termed this an ‘historic’ moment for football in the Philippines.

“The issue we face is that we are not prepared as our league finished in December and now we are back here playing already in the Champions League but we will try to compete and do the best we can.

“We know though it will be very tough for us because this is a higher level and Brisbane have many top players, many with experience in Europe and they are much better prepared than us.

“Sure though the players are motivated and we know how important this match is not just for our club but for football in the Philippines –it’s an historic match – as everybody in the nation wants to see a club in the group stage of the Champions League.”

Vidakovic did a fantastic job in leading the side from the central city of Bacolod to a second-placed finish at the end of the regular season in the inaugural edition of the Philippines Football League and after having then thrashed Global 4-1 in the final they were crowned the league’s first ever champions and booked this ACL playoff spot as a result.

Since then though things have soured in the nation with two of the eight clubs having announced they won’t return in 2018 meaning the future of Filipino football is very much teetering in the balance, with Vidakovic admitting he holds genuine fears for the future of the professional game in the country.

“I don’t know what the future holds but if they don’t change the format or the way that things are organised then maybe in a few years there will no longer be a professional league.

“The way that things are done now it’s not sustainable and they have to change a lot of things, especially the way the league is organised, as it’s not sustainable where you depend just on the owners and companies investing with nothing coming back because if these companies can no longer invest then they will leave.”

That’s one thing that you can’t accuse Ceres of doing with the owners investing heavily to keep the star players they have – led by the likes of brothers Mike and Manny Ott as well as Martin Steuble – at the club following a wave of success last year that included becoming the first club from the country to reach deep into the latter stages of the AFC Cup.

With the new ASEAN player rule adopted in Thailand and Malaysia that saw cashed-up clubs circling, Vidakovic was delighted they managed to keep the core of the squad intact.

“We had a hard time after the success in the AFC Cup last season when we were the champions of Southeast Asia and many other clubs showed interest in our players but we tried the best to keep as many as we could and increased the salaries to do so.

“The thing about this club though is that players want to stay here because we have a fantastic atmosphere and they think they can make history if they stay here for maybe one more season and there really is a feeling like a family at the club so players aren’t only thinking about money.”

What they do have to think about though is finding a way to topple a Brisbane side with far greater resources and history and off the back of a pre-season barely three weeks long.

That followed a 2017 campaign that began in the first week of January and ended in mid-December and which Vidakovic told FOX Sports Asia was the longest year of his career.

“We didn’t have time to give the players the break they usually would get because of these matches, but we travelled to Australia trying to make it difficult for Brisbane.

“Of course we have good players and players with experience abroad and national players at our club, but the difference is the kind of intensity they are used to in the Philippines will be much more difficult here.

“We have to try and compete for as long as we can and of course keep our goal safe but we can’t only look to play behind the ball so when we have a chance we need to take advantage of playing on a good pitch and go forward which is the style of football that we like to play.”

Ceres-Negros make Shan United pay the penalty in ACL qualifiers

Ceres-Negros have advanced to the second preliminary round of the 2018 AFC Champions League qualifiers by beating Shan United on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

In a keenly-contested encounter at the Thuwunna Stadium, there was initially no separating Myanmar’s Shan and Philippine visitors Ceres, who earned their chance to qualify for Asia’s premier club competition as champions of their respective leagues.

With 90 minutes gone, the tie then went into extra-time and it was Ceres who drew first blood in the 94th minute, when Stephan Schrock’s dangerous ball into the box was inadvertently headed by William Nyakwe into his own goal.

But, just five minutes later, the hosts equalised courtesy of a fine strike by Patrick Asare, who received possession from Nay Lin Tun and turned sharply on the edge of the box before curling a sublime effort into the top corner.

As neither side were able to score again, the tie was then set to be decided by the dreaded shootout.

In the end, Ceres only need four successful conversions – from Carli de Murga, Schrock, Mike Ott and Bienvenido Maranon – to advance as crucial misses by Christopher Chizoba and Nyakwe saw Shan fall to a 4-3 defeat on penalties.

The Busmen will now meet Australia’s Brisbane Roar in the next stage of qualification, while Shan will have to settle for AFC Cup football in the coming season.

Ceres-Negros snap up Philippines stars Ott, Aguinaldo

Ceres-Negros have added more reinforcements ahead of the 2018 campaign with the signings of Philippines internationals Mike Ott and Amani Aguinaldo.

Both transfers were announced on Wednesday and takes the number of Ceres’ new arrivals to five, following their previous captures of ex-Real Betis keeper Toni Doblas, Japanese striker Takumi Uesato and Philippines international Sean Kane.

Ott arrives with plenty of experience having played in Germany with the second teams of 1860 Munich and Nuremberg, as well as in Thailand with Angthong.

A full international despite only being 22, Ott will now get the chance to play with older brother Manny, who has been a key player at the club since 2014.

Meanwhile, Aguinaldo – also 22 – arrives at the Panaad Park and Stadium as arguably the best centre-back in Philippines at the moment.

Already a veteran of two AFF Suzuki Cups, the former Global Cebu star will add plenty of steel and class to the Ceres backline, although he will only feature midway through the year as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury.

Ceres will kick off their season next Tuesday against Myanmar’s Shan United in the first preliminary round of qualification for the AFC Champions League.

Should they negotiate their way past that tie, they will then have to beat Australia’s Brisbane Roar and China’s Tianjin Quanjian in order to take their place in Group E.

Nonetheless, if they are eliminated at any time, they will head straight for AFC Cup, where they have already been drawn in Group F alongside Home United, Shan United and Boeung Ket.

Photo credit: Ceres-Negros FC

2018 will be a big year for ASEAN Football

With the new year upon us, FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan looks at the players and teams in ASEAN football who are set for a big 2018.

1) Trio flying ASEAN flag at AFC U-23 Championship

It won’t take long for the first major tournament to kick off with Asia’s best Under-23 teams competing at the AFC U-23 Championship in China.

For the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2013, Southeast Asia will have three representatives (four, if you include fellow ASEAN Football Federation member Australia) present.

Thailand and Vietnam are back again after qualifying two years ago and will be looking to improve on their group-stage exit, while Malaysia – under the stewardship of the experienced Ong Kim Swee – are preparing for their tournament debut and will face Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in Group C.

Vietnam look to have been handed the toughest task as they are in Group D with Korea Republic, Australia and Syria.

On the other hand, Thailand will be quietly optimistic in their chances of reaching the knockout round from a Group B that contains defending champions Japan, but also two very beatable teams in DPR Korea and Palestine.

2) Local leagues overflowing with ASEAN flavour

The decision by Thailand and Malaysia’s domestic leagues to introduce a foreign signing quota specifically for ASEAN imports already looks to be a brilliant masterstroke, both on and off the field.

While the dream for every Myanmar or Cambodia fans is to one day see Aung Thu and Chan Vathanaka grace the biggest stages, taking a smaller step in the right direction is not always a bad thing.

Happy to join with @pahangfa_official @officialligasupermalaysia

A post shared by Chan Vathanaka (@vathanaka_cv11) on

On the field, a premier talent from a neighbouring country can easily be better than a B or C-grade foreigner from Europe, South America or Africa. And off the field, the benefits reaped could be equal if not far greater.

Imagine how many Cambodian fans will now be following every Pahang match? Or how many Myanmar supporters will now be eagerly trying to get their hands on a Police Tero jersey with “Aung Thu 10” on the back?

Either way, the T1 League and MSL will have added intrigue and excitement purely because the likes of Hariss Harun, Evan Dimas, Kyaw Ko Ko, Thierry Chantha Bin and Hoang Vu Samson will be gracing them.

And, should the ASEAN import rule prove to be a success, it would pave the way for competitions like the Liga 1, S.League and V.League 1 to follow suit.

3) Can Indonesia, Philippines maintain momentum?

2017 saw a rebirth for domestic football in two Southeast Asian countries as Indonesia’s Liga 1 and the Philippines Football League had their inaugural campaigns.

While there is still room for much improvement – the PFL especially was plagued by several administrative and scheduling issues – there is no denying that both were a success.

The Liga 1 title race went down to the wire and, while traditional heavyweights like Arema and Persib Bandung faltered, potential powerhouses emerged in the form of Bhayangkara and Bali United.

And, although it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, the PFL’s Finals Series led to a thrilling and fitting conclusion as Philippines’ top four teams faced off for top honours, with Ceres-Negros ultimately emerging triumphant.

The first year is always expected to be a learning experience and expectations were never going to be too high.

In 2018, however, the pressure will be on both organisations to only replicate, but better, the success they have had.

4) Asia beckons as Thailand lead the way

Few would argue that – right now in ASEAN football – Thailand are leading the way on all fronts.

They are the strongest national team at the moment, both at senior and age group level, have clubs regularly competing amongst the continent’s best in the AFC Champions League, and are now exporting homegrown stars like Chanathip Songkrasin and Teerasil Dangda to a top Asian competition such as the J1 League.

2018 will be another platform for Thailand to show that they continue to make progress.

Buriram United would do well to reach the knockout round of the Champions League, while it’s high time Thailand had more than one representative in Asia’s premier club competition.

Honourable defeats to Chinese, Japanese and South Korean clubs in the final qualifying round should no longer be seen as acceptable. This year, provided they advance from the second preliminary round, Muangthong United and Chiangrai United have to strive to beat Kashiwa Reysol and Shanghai SIPG respectively at the final hurdle.

And it’s not just the future of Thailand on the line. Instead, they can set the example for the others to strive for.

Don’t forget that Malaysia will also have a team qualifying automatically for the Champions League group stage.

Whether it be Johor Darul Ta’zim, or another one of the teams that have tried but failed to catch them for the past four years, Buriram – over the next six months – could show them that teams like Guangzhou Evergrande, Cerezo Osaka and Jeju United are to be respected but not feared.

5) AFF Suzuki Cup is up for grabs again

Yes, in the grander scheme of things, the AFF Suzuki Cup should not rank as the biggest of prizes in Southeast Asia.

Teams should be setting their sights on loftier targets like qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup, Olympic Games, FIFA U-20 World Cup, FIFA World Cup… the list goes on.

But, there is just something about ASEAN supporters and the Suzuki Cup that can be simply traced back to the pure tribal nature of being a football fan.

Put simply, the Suzuki Cup is the one chance each team gets to claim the status of Southeast Asia’s best team for the following two years.

Everyone wants that.

The new format introduced for this year’s edition also adds a different dimension as the group stage will now be spread across the region, meaning each team will get to host at least two matches.

While it promises to be a logistical nightmare for all involved, it is a brilliant move for passionate fans all over who deserve to watch their heroes in action.

Thailand have conquered all that have come before them since 2014, but they were no longer as untouchable in 2016 as they were two years before as Indonesia gave them a real run for their money.

With Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Myanmar rapidly closing the gap, while former champions Malaysia and Singapore will be determined to regain their pride, the 2018 edition of the Suzuki Cup promises to be the most exciting yet.

Kobayashi brace hands Kawasaki victory

Yu Kobayashi’s brace helped Kawasaki Frontale to a 3-1 victory over Urawa Red Diamonds in an all-Japan first leg quarter-final clash of the AFC Champions League at Kawasaki Todoroki Stadium on Wednesday.

The result puts Frontale in a strong position when they travel to Saitama Stadium 2002 for the second leg on September 13.

The Frontale goals came via Kobayashi's brace and another from Brazilian Elsinho. The Reds scored the vital away goal through Yuki Muto.

The home side always looked the better side and what did not help matters for the Reds was when playmaker Yosuke Kashiwagi got injured during the warm-up.

The opening goal was scored in the 32nd minute by a Kobayashi left-footed shot after some good work by Kengo Nakamura.

The teams went in at the half-time break with Frontale leading 1-0.

Things got worse for the visitors five minutes into the second half, when they fell 2-0 behind. After Kobayashi's fierce shot was initially blocked by goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, the ball then found Elsinho, who scored with a right-footed shot to put his side firmly in control.

The Urawa Reds did pull a goal back in the 76th minute when substitute Muto scored with a shot from the centre of the box after receiving a through ball from Takuya Aoki, to make the score 2-1.

Five minutes from time, the game was effectively killed off when Akihiro Ienaga's quality cross from the left was headed into the goal by Kobayashi to hand his side the 3-1 win and two-goal cushion ahead of the second leg. 

Al Ain held, Persepolis fight back: What we learned

The first leg of the 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-finals in West Asia have been completed with little separating the region’s top four sides.

United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain and Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia were the first to lock horns on Monday at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.

Despite it proving to be a free-flowing and entertaining encounter, both teams were just unable to break the deadlock and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

The following evening, Al Ahli, Saudi Arabia’s second representative still in the hunt, were the “visitors” against Iranian outfit Persepolis, with the tie actually being played at the neutral venue of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.

Al Ahli appeared on track for a vital win after efforts by Omar Al Soma and Leonardo put them in control of proceedings.

But Persepolis refused to throw in the towel and goals in the final 20 minutes from Shoja’ Khalilzadeh and Godwin Mensha salvaged a draw for them.

The return encounters may still be three weeks away but, already, there is plenty to look forward to.

Can Omar Abdulrahman be stifled twice in a row?

There is always risk in tinkering with your usual formation for a match as big as the quarters of Asia’s premier club competition.

However, Al Hilal coach Ramon Diaz’s gamble paid off as his switch to a five-man defence went a long way in curbing the influence of Al Ain playmaker Omar Abdulrahman.

Evidently, it is impossible to keep a player of Omar’s quality quiet for the entire 90 minutes, and he still threatened on a number of occasions.

Yet, the skilful forward had much less space to exploit, and the constant attention he received from any one of the five opposition defenders when he received possession meant he did not have as much time to weave his magic.

Keeping Al Ain at bay on their own ground bodes well for now, but can Al Hilal stymie the 25-year-old once more on September 11?

Should they place too much focus on him, they do run the risk of allowing the other opposition attackers like Marcus Berg and Douglas to inflict the damage.

Diaz will also have to figure out how adventurous he wants to be in the second leg.

The impetus will obviously be on them to be more attacking in front of their home support, but should they overdo it, it could just leave them susceptible to conceding a devastating away goal.

Advantage Al Ahli despite late meltdown

It could – and should – have been more for Al Ahli.

Instead, they only return to Jeddah with a couple of away goals, when it might have been a two-goal cushion that could have proved too much for Persepolis to overcome.

At present, they do remain favourites to seal their progress into the semi-finals, although the last 20 minutes of Tuesday’s game will give the Iranians plenty of hope.

Not only did they manage to summon plenty of endeavour to get back into the contest, but some hesistant and careless defending from their opponents will also present hope they can grab an away goal or two at another neutral venue in Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium.

Bear in mind, though, that the Persepolis defending was also far from convincing on the night.

Whatever the result, it is shaping up to be another thrilling affair, especially for the neutrals.

Persepolis post comeback to share spoils

Persepolis came back from two goals down to earn a draw in the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-final against Al Ahli on Tuesday.

The Iranian outfit netted two goals in the final 18 minutes of the game to earn a crucial draw at the at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Oman.

Al Ahli grabbed an early lead via Omar Al Soma in just the second minute. The striker pounced on a rebound after Persepolis stopper Alireza Beiranvand saved a shot from Saleh AL Jamaan, giving the visitors the lead.

The teams went back into the hut with Al Ahli leading 1-0 and they doubled the lead almost on the hour. Al Jamaan put Brazilian midfielder Leonardo da Silva into space and he beat the keeper to silence the home crowd.

Persepolis pulled one back in the 72nd minute to spark hope of a result. Defender Shojae Khalilzadeh rose above the Al Ahli defence to head home from close range.

A rejuvenated Persepolis surged forward and Nigerian substitute Godwin Mensha would find the equaliser with just six minutes left on the clock, setting up the tie nicely for the second leg in Abu Dhabi next month.

Superb Shanghai SIPG put Evergrande to the sword

Shanghai SIPG put in a brilliant display on Tuesday evening to beat Guangzhou Evergrande 4-0 in the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-final.

First-half goals by Hulk and Wang Shenchao put the hosts firmly in control of proceedings at the Shanghai Stadium, before a Wu Lei brace after halftime completed a stunning result.

There is still the return encounter to be played at the Tianhe Stadium on September 12, but it will take something miraculous if Evergrande are to overturn the deficit.

In what had been billed as a tantalising encounter between the Chinese Super League’s two giants, the Red Eagles were presented with a perfect opportunity to open the scoring in the 37th minute when Wu Lei was barged over inside the area.

A penalty was awarded without hesitation and it was Brazil international Hulk who stepped up to the spot, calmly sending Zeng Cheng the wrong way to make it 1-0.

Right on the stroke of halftime, their lead was doubled when captain Wang Shenchao was left unmarked at the back post following a short corner routine and headed home from two yards out.

The contest was effectively over in the 62nd minute when a neat backheel from Hulk sent Wu charging towards goal; the China international proceeding to unleashed a ferocious drive into the far corner.

With three-goal cushion in their grasp, Andre Villas-Boas’ charges could have been expected to consolidate the situation and play out the remainder of the contest yet they had other ideas.

Hulk was at the centre of everything and, two minutes later, he led a counterattack with a burst straight down the middle before slipping a pass through to Wu, who made no mistake in finishing past the onrushing Zeng to complete the rout for his side.

Evergrande have another 90 minutes to attempt to pull off a remarkable comeback, one which would be even more stunning than the victory their opponents inflicted on them on Tuesday.

For now, however, Shanghai SIPG have taken a huge step towards shifting the balance of power in Chinese football.

SHANGHAI SIPG: Yan Junling, Fu Huan, He Guan, Shi Ke, Wang Shenchao (Zhang Wei 90’), Cai Huikang, Odil Ahmedov, Oscar, Hulk, Wu Lei (Yu Hai 88’), Lu Wenjun (Elkeson 57’).

GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE: Zeng Cheng, Zhang Linpeng, Feng Xiaoting (Wang Shangyuan 46’), Kim Young-gwan, Li Xuepeng, Zheng Zhi, Liao Lisheng, Alan (Muriqui 63’), Ricardo Goulart, Zheng Long (Yu Hanchao 46’), Gao Lin.

Scolari v Villas-Boas: Who will come out on top?

Apart from being an intriguing all-Chinese affair, Tuesday’s AFC Champions League quarter-final between Shanghai SIPG and Guangzhou Evergrande will also see a fascinating managerial duel.

Standing in the Evergrande corner is the legendary Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose highlight of his 35-year coaching career came in 2002 when he guided Brazil to a record fifth FIFA World Cup.

He finds himself up against Andre Villas-Boas, once regarded as the brightest mind in the game and still only 39, but arguably yet to deliver on his potential after unsuccessful spells in the Premier League with Chelsea and Tottenham.

While both appear to be enjoying life in the Chinese Super League, with plenty of funds at their disposal and significantly lower expectations than in Europe, are they genuinely under no pressure at all?

Or is it crucial for that they emerge triumphant and guide their respective clubs into the Champions League semis?

Their time in China so far

Scolari was handed the Evergrande reins in June 2015 after the club abruptly parted ways with former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro.

Since then, he has guided them to two Super League titles and an FA Cup, as well as the Champions League crown just five months after his arrival.

However, the Southern China Tigers embarrassingly failed to advance from the group stage last year, finishing behind Sydney FC and Urawa Red Diamonds.

While an eight-point lead means Evergrande are on course to becoming Super League champions once again, it is in on the continental front where Scolari needs to make amends.

Meanwhile, Villas-Boas arrived at Shanghai SIPG ahead of the 2016 season and had to settle for a third-place finish in his debut campaign, one lower than what his predecessor Sven-Goran Eriksson achieved the previous year.

There is no doubt, given his reputation and the quality players at his disposal, that the club hierarchy expect Villas-Boas to help them overthrow Evergrande as China’s number one team.

Barring a minor miracle, that will not happen in the Super League this year.

Still, knocking their fierce competitors out of Asia’s premier club competition and booking their own spot in the semis could be an equally powerful statement of intent.

Their recent head-to-head

It is interesting to note that in four previous encounters before their most recent meeting earlier this month, Villas-Boas had never masterminded a over Scolari.

He finally achieved that last week – a 2-1 triumph in the FA Cup – but that occasion saw Evergrande field a second-strength team with one eye on their other commitments.

Under Villas-Boas, Shanghai SIPG have never lost to Evergrande at home and that would come as a significant confidence boost.

Scolari, on the other hand, has twice enjoyed victories over Tuesday’s opponents – a 3-0 win in September 2015 and this April’s 3-2 triumph, which saw Yu Hanchao, Alan and Ricardo Goulart all on target.

The way they send their troops out

For awhile now, Scolari has been a fan of the 4-2-3-1 that has been synonymous with modern football for the past decade, until the recent emergence of the 3-4-3.

The Brazilian clearly believes there is no need to fix what is not broken and the likes of Zhang Linpeng, Zheng Zhi and Ricardo Goulart form a reliable backbone in the side.

Villas-Boas prefers a more dynamic 4-3-3 and it is easy to see why, especially when he boasts such offensive talent like Hulk, Elkeson and Wu Lei.

In previous years, it is at the back where Shanghai SIPG have been more vulnerable than Evergrande but Villas-Boas has clearly identified and addressed this deficiency, with his side boasting the better defensive record of the two in the league so far in 2017.

With both sides well versed in their respective systems and boasting quality all over the field, fans can expect to be in for a treat over 180 minutes.

Who will prevail?

Based on recent history, few would dare to bet against Scolari and his men, but there remains a nagging feeling that, if ever there is a shift in power in China, it is on the horizon.

The fact that the first leg will be played at the Shanghai Stadium has significance, given Shanghai SIPG have not lose their 28 home games, winning 21 of those in the process.

As long as the Red Eagles can win on Tuesday, or at the very least eke out a draw, they will have every chance of advancing to the last four.

Nonetheless, should Evergrande become the first side to beat them at their home since June 2016, it would require an almighty effort from Shanghai SIPG if they are to pull off a comeback in the return encounter on September 12.