AFC Champions League

Jiangsu wary of challenge posed by Buriram

Thai side have a strong record in competition and will be tough to be beat tonight, coach says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 April, 2013, 5:43am

Buriram United made such an impression in last year's AFC Champions League, Jiangsu Sainty coach Dragan Okuka is preaching caution ahead of his side's meeting with the Thai Premier League side tonight.

The Thai team handed Guangzhou Evergrande a 2-1 defeat at Tianhe Stadium early in the 2012 competition after registering a victory over then-J.League champions Kashiwa Reysol before running out of gas and narrowly missing out on a place in the knockout phase of the competition.

Guangzhou went on to reach the last eight and retain the Chinese Super League title, but the impact of that loss to the Thais has been seared into the memories of many of the mainland's football watchers.

"We have a strong opponent this time," said Okuka, whose side picked up their first-ever point in the competition three weeks ago with a 0-0 draw against Japan's Vegalta Sendai.

Last year they beat Guangzhou Evergrande and nearly qualified. This year they drew the first two games. They play football in an aggressive way
Jiangsu Sainty coach Dragan Okuka

Last year they beat Guangzhou Evergrande and nearly qualified. This year they drew the first two games. They play football in an aggressive way, but we are confident, too

"We hope to repeat the performance against Sendai and have a good result."

Jiangsu had a challenging introduction to the competition, suffering a hammering at the hands of FC Seoul in South Korea on their debut before bouncing back with the draw with Sendai in Nanjing.

Okuka's team, who finished second in the Chinese Super League last season but have had a disappointing start to this season's campaign, sit at the bottom of group E in the AFC Champions League but are just three points behind leaders FC Seoul and are only a point adrift of Buriram and Sendai.

"The first ACL match which we lost [5-1] to Seoul was not reflective of our real quality," said Okuka. "In the second game we showed what we were capable of. Buriram are tough, and they didn't concede many goals. We have to be patient and show spirit. Overall we are well prepared, physically and mentally."

Okuka is hopeful China international midfielder Liu Jianye will be fit to face the Thais, who bring a very different side to Jiangsu compared with the one that defeated Guangzhou, with African imports Frank Acheampong and Franck Ohandza having left the club at the end of last season.

Beijing Guoan, meanwhile, travel to Uzbekistan to take on last year's AFC Champions League semi-finalists Bunyodkor off the back of a 1-1 draw last Friday in the Chinese Super League with Guangzhou Evergrande.

Both teams are unbeaten in their two group G matches so far and sit two points clear of J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Pohang Steelers from South Korea, who meet in the group's other game tonight.

Beijing were held to a 0-0 draw by the Koreans in their opening game in Pohang before handing Hiroshima a 2-1 defeat at Workers' Stadium and should Aleksandar Stanojevic's side avoid defeat in Tashkent, they will be confident of progressing to the knockout phase for the first time since 2010.