It will be a clash of epic proportions when Pohang Steelers meet Guangzhou Evergrande in a Group H AFC Champions League encounter at The Steelyard on Tuesday.
Both clubs form a considerable part of AFC Champions League history. Pohang have won the competition three times while Guangzhou are currently the defending champions.
While it is an uncomfortable thought, Tuesday could spell the end for one of these Asian giants. Sydney FC top Group H with nine points, Urawa Red Diamonds are in second with seven points, Pohang in third with four points and Guangzhou in fourth with only two points. Just two rounds of matches remain, meaning it’s desperate times.
The last time Pohang played Guangzhou was late in February and the result was a 0-0 draw. While there was little to separate the sides that evening, Guangzhou will head into this game with momentum on their side having won their last two Super League fixtures against Henan Jianye and Beijing Guoan. Consequently, Guangzhou are second on the league table.
On the contrary, Pohang have struggled domestically of late. On Saturday they lost 2-0 to Sangju Sangmu in the K-League. That result came after draws with Suwon and Jeonbuk and a loss to Seongnam. Pohang are only two positions from the foot of the league standings and are in desperate need of some inspiration.
However, their manager, Choi Jin-cheul, is confident his team can produce a performance that will warrant a victory despite their troubles.
“A point is no good for us,” said Choi. “We know what we have to do and we will be looking for the three points. Guangzhou are a dangerous team and are defending champion. We will have to be at our best.
“We are focused on the task ahead and ensuring that we can still progress to the next stage.”
Shim Dong-Woon (3 goals) and Ricardo Goulart (4 goals) have been in decent goal-scoring form for their sides in their respective leagues this season and both players will shoulder a lot of responsibility on Tuesday evening.
However, Pohang will be without midfielder Son Jun-ho due to injury and while Choi admitted his absence will be a big blow to the team, the 45-year-old made it clear that his side have to focus on beating Guangzhou and boosting their chances of advancing to the round of 16.
“We will miss a player of his (Son’s) calibre,” Choi admitted. “But we are focused on the task ahead and ensuring that we can still progress to the next stage.”
Meanwhile, Guangzhou will not have the services of Jackson Martinez, who recently picked up an ankle injury, and captain Zheng Zhi as he is currently suspended.
Guangzhou coach Luiz Felipe Scolari conceded that his side will miss Martinez and Zhi before going on to say that he is confident the Chinese Super League club can qualify for the round of 16 even though they currently sit at the foot of the Group H standings.
Related: Scolari in last chance saloon
“It is true that we are missing some important players,” he said. “Regardless, we have enough talented players to come in who can do a good job for us and help us get the result we need.
“I am still confident that we can progress to the next stage, there are two games left and we will be doing all we can to get the wins.
“We have prepared well for the game, we know it will be tough but we are ready.”
— GZ Evergrande FC (@GZEvergrandeFC) April 17, 2016
Pohang will take on Guangzhou at 18:20 HKT on FOX SPORTS.