Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden assesses Victory’s opponents Shanghai SIPG, and he says Sven Goran-Eriksson’s star-studded CSL outfit are on the improve since they last met in Melbourne.
There is no time for Melbourne Victory to feel sorry for themselves after that heartbreaking loss to Brisbane Roar on Friday night in the Hyundai A-League Elimination Final.
The Big V is in China for a testing game with Group G leaders Shanghai SIPG in the 2016 AFC Champions League on Tuesday night.
It is, at least, an early opportunity to Kevin Muscat’s men to put that Suncorp disappointment behind them and take another step towards the knockout stage.
One win from the last two games will be enough for the Australians and if those three points come away at Shanghai rather than at home to Gamba Osaka, then so much the better.
The Hyundai A-League season may be over for Melbourne but the Chinese Super League is just getting into its groove with Shanghai just having played its fifth game and sitting in third, just behind champion Guangzhou Evergrande.
The team is going well in the AFC Champions League too. Victory defeated Shanghai 2-1 in February but the Chinese won the following three games to just need a point from Tuesday’s clash to be sure of a place in the last 16.
A win however secures first place and home advantage in the second round.
In the Chinese Super League, the 1-0 win over Guangzhou R&F on Friday was slightly fortuitous and not the slickest performance from the 2016 Chinese Super League runners-up.
The first half was nothing to write back to Australia about.
With a lone striker in attack in the shape of Elkeson, signed from Guangzhou Evergrande in the off-season for around $20 million, the hosts struggled to make inroads.
It changed a little in the second half as the coach Sven Goran-Eriksson hosts switched to a 4-4-2 formation and introduced Asamoah Gyan off the bench.
The Ghanaian has yet to find his goalscoring touch this season but the team improved and Shanghai started to ask more questions of the visitors.
The deadlock was broken five minutes from the end though it scrappy fashion.
A shot came back from the goalkeeper and Elkseson was there to bundle the ball over the line though he had some help from R&F’s Swedish star Gustav Svennson.
It was not a classic performance but it puts Shanghai into the top three with eight points from five games.
“We were not at our best today,” admitted Eriksson after the game.
“Guangzhou were good but we looked a little tired. The recent run of games have had an effect. It is hard to adapt to playing two games a week.”
Yet they say that the sign of a good team is one that wins when it is not at its best on the pitch.
“We want to become one of the top teams,” added the Swede. “We had to overcome difficulties to take the three points and that is important for us.”
Perhaps the pleasing aspect for the team is that despite the star names in attack such as Asamoah Gyan, Elkeson, Dario Conca and talented Chinese international Wu Lei, the defence is the unit of the team that is performing the best with speedy centre-back Kim Joo-young marshalling the back four.
In fact, Victory’s 2-1 win over Shanghai in the opening game of the group is the only occasion this season that the Chinese team have conceded more than once.
“We now have three consecutive clean sheets.” said Eriksson.
“This is very important. We know we will face a tough test against Melbourne. The team is strong as we saw in Australia but we will work hard for the win as we want to progress to the next stage.”