Melbourne Victory have a chance to catch up to Shanghai SIPG at the summit of the Group G standings when they face each other in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
In the group standings with two matches to play, SIPG are top with nine points followed by Melbourne on six. Third with three points are Korea’s Suwon Bluewings FC and at the bottom with two points is Gamba Osaka of Japan.
#ACL2016 | Group G
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) April 6, 2016
SIPG kicked off their group campaign in February with a 2-1 loss in Melbourne but turned that round to win their next three matches, defeating both Suwon and Gamba 2-1 in Shanghai and then cruising past Gamba 2-0 in their last match. They just need a draw on Tuesday to reach the round of 16.
SIPG’s star players to look out for are forward Wu Lei and Brazilian striker Elkeson, who have both scored three times so far. SIPG will be without midfielder Cai Huikang who was suspended for picking up two yellow cards in their last game against Gamba.
In domestic action last Friday, SIPG defeated Guangzhou R&F 1-0 to climb to third on the table with eight points.
At the press conference ahead of Tuesday’s match, SIPG coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said he backed his side to secure qualification to the last 16.
“Now we are in a good shape and I hope to keep it until tomorrow. I hope players can run and fight as usual, I have faith in them,” said Eriksson.
“I’ve watched Melbourne’s recent game in which they lost 2-1 to Brisbane. They had a good performance with an unfortunate result. They were also pretty good in our first encounter. They are very good at intensive force and tireless running. They are physically very strong, I hope we can manage to win it.
“Everything is possible in football. We had a good match last time, but the result wasn’t so ideal. However after that, we have done well in the CSL and ACL recently. Why can’t we keep this status going? Of course, there is always worries in football. But all our players are ready for a good match.”
Melbourne started their Champions League group stage off by beating SIPG 2-1 at home then followed that up with a 1-1 draw against Gamba and a goalless draw in Melbourne against Suwon. In their last match against Suwon, they drew 1-1.
The players to look out for are winger Jai Ingham, forward Besart Berisha and defender Nicolas Ansell, who are not only influential but have all scored in the campaign so far.
Domestically, Melbourne finished in sixth place during the regular season and their A-League defence came to an end on Friday when they lost 2-1 to Brisbane Roar in the quarter-finals.
Melbourne coach Kevin Muscat acknowledged that beating SIPG again will be no easy feat, but added that his side are capable of getting the job done.
“We just arrived in Shanghai today,” said Muscat. “There are only two games left in the group. We respect Shanghai very much. We have encountered played them already, and we will try to fight for a win tomorrow.
“We should have arrived Shanghai earlier, however due to the domestic league, we came a bit late. But I don’t think this will affect our performance because we are fully prepared both physically and mentally. We will do our best.
“I have watched Shanghai’s game videos and noticed that they have very good attacking force. So we will first emphasise on defending, then trying to score. This will be the only approach for us to win the game.”
SIPG and Melbourne will face each other at Shanghai Stadium at 19:20 HKT on FOX SPORTS 2.