Shanghai face Melbourne in tough ACL tie

Melbourne, Feb 23 (IANS) Shanghai SIPG coach Sven-Goran Eriksson on Tuesday said his team will need to play their best football in order to beat reigning Australian champions Melbourne Victory in their opening AFC Champions League (ACL) clash.

Eriksson told the media that his Chinese Super League (CSL) side will face a tough, physical challenge on Wednesday evening, from a Victory team led by notorious hard-man Kevin Muscat, reports Xinhua.

However, the Swedish mastermind said marquee players such as Dario Conca — who has ACL experience — will be vital in kicking off the competition with a win.

“We have some players who have already played Champions League in Asia, but there are many who haven’t,” the former England national team coach said.

“I am quite sure we will play good football but whether or not it will be enough to beat (Melbourne) I’m not sure. We know it is a difficult group and we have a lot of respect for them.”

Eriksson said that since arriving in Melbourne on Sunday, his side has been attempting to train more aggressively in order to match the Australian style of football.

“Victory is a very aggressive team, they will put pressure on us all over the pitch, they are good in close contact and they have some very good players,” Eriksson said.

“They won the league last year, of course. We know (the style of play) is going to be different. It’s going to be a different style to Chinese football, that’s for sure.”

The Swede noted the “disadvantage” his team have due to Victory having played league football for months (the A-League season begins in October), but said there would be “no excuse” for his side not to play competitive football on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, star midfielder Dario Conca said he had talked to teammates about his experience winning the ACL with Guangzhou Evergrande in 2013, and said any information about playing in Australia would help SIPG start the 2016 tournament well.

“We have a lot of young player but a lot of them are from national teams, they’re good,” Conca said.

“The experience I have now is very helpful and I think the young players will surprise in the future. The game tomorrow will be fantastic to see.”

However, in a late blow, Eriksson revealed that SIPG captain Sun Xiang would not be playing on Wednesday after he was ruled out of the final team due to injury.

Earlier on Tuesday, Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat said winning Australia’s A-League championship last season has put a good feeling amongst the team heading into the 2016 ACL competition.

However, Muscat added that a team coached by mastermind Sven-Goran Eriksson was always going to pose a danger to his team.

“Naturally we’ve got to respect the opposition. Mr Eriksson’s side has some very, very good individuals,” Muscat told the press.

“It’s a massive challenge but … now that we’re here it’s nothing to be afraid of and it’s something we should embrace.”

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