Chinese Super League sides look ahead to AFC Champions League quarter-finals, but first they should take care of business at home
Shanghai SIPG take on South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the last eight of the continental competition, while Shandong Luneng also face K-League opposition in the form of FC Seoul, with the first legs taking place next week
With only one game in the Chinese Super League before continental competition resumes, you can forgive Shanghai SIPG and Shandong Luneng for turning their minds to their impending AFC Champions League quarter-finals.
The first legs take place next week with Shanghai SIPG welcoming Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to Shanghai Stadium, while Shandong travel to South Korea to reacquaint themselves with the Seoul World Cup Stadium where they met FC Seoul in the group stage.
Before that, though, there is the small matter of another vital domestic league game for both sides. Shanghai SIPG are in need of a win at home to Shijiazhuang Everbright on Friday night, while Shandong Luneng are away at Tianjin Teda on Saturday evening.
Aside from a win – which would grant Shanghai SIPG a chance to catch-up with city rivals Shanghai Shenhua, who have overtaken them in the AFC Champions League qualifying spots for next season – they need to get game time for both Hulk and Dario Conca before the Korean league leaders come to town.
The Chinese Super League’s record signing has not featured for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side since his goalscoring debut back on July 10th, while Argentine playmaker Conca has not featured since a substitute appearance against Lioaning Whowin that resulted in a recurrence of his leg injury.
Shanghai SIPG coach Eriksson is reported to be confident that both will be back in time for the biggest game in the club’s history next Tuesday – they were supposedly in contention for this weekend’s game away at Yanbian Funde, but neither featured in the 1-1 draw.
Shandong Luneng won at the weekend – overcoming Guangzhou R&F 2-1 away in South China – but they remain third bottom.
They face the team one place and one point above them in Tianjin and a win would ease their relegation worries ahead of a season defining game in the South Korean capital.
Form has been a concern for both of China’s quarter-finalists, but after much publicised struggles, things have picked up and German coach Felix Magath has moved Shandong Luneng out of the relegation zone.
WATCH Yanbian Funde 1-1 Shanghai SIPG
Both have made big signings from European leagues in the form of Hulk, Papiss Cisse and Graziano Pelle, but their progress has been down to players with lower international profiles with Shanghai SIPG’s China international winger Wu Lei deserving more of the spotlight.
The man dubbed “China’s Maradona” has been in top form this season contributing both goals and assists and Wu is the third-joint scorer in the Super League and the leading Chinese player.
Further forward, Jean Evrard Kouassi has also impressed as form and suspension have seen the goals dry up for the Super League’s all-time foreign top scorer, Elkeson.
Up in Shandong, Walter Montillo has been the hero. The Argentine, who was signed from Santos in 2014, has come up with the goals that have seen the club rise from the drop zone, including another last weekend.
WATCH Guangzhou R&F 1-2 Shandong Luneng
The Chinese teams go into their match-ups with South Korea’s top two in decent, if not spectacular form.
Magath’s Shandong Luneng have won two, lost two and drawn one of their last five league games, while Shanghai SIPG have won one, lost two – including the Shanghai derby – and drawn one.
Wins for both this coming weekend would add confidence as well as vital points at both ends of the table.
They will need all the confidence they can get, such is the opposition. The K-League sides go into the ties as firm favourites, it’s just hard to tell which of the Chinese sides faces the toughest task.
On paper it should be Shanghai SIPG as Jeonbuk are 10 points clear at the top of the table at home having not lost a game all season.
WATCH Shandong Luneng 1-4 FC Seoul
FC Seoul might be 10 points off the pace, but that is not bad considering the disruption of losing their coach to the Super League, where he replaced Dan Petrescu at Jiangsu Sainty.
Cho Yong-soo’s successor in Seoul, Hwang Sun-hong, took time to get going but the Korean capital side have four wins and a draw in their last five games.
The fact that they lost AFC Champions League top scorer Adriano to a six game suspension makes it all the more of a task for Shandong Luneng.
The Brazilian scored a brace when the Chinese side hosted the Koreans in the group stage as FC Seoul ran out 4-1 winners.
The K-League sides play midweek and then have a week long rest before the quarter-finals, while the Super League sides will have to hope they can use their weekends to build some valuable momentum.