Beijing FC head coach Bruno Genesio is keen for all members of his squad to contribute to a successful 2020 AFC Champions League campaign ahead of their clash against Melbourne Victory in Group E today.
The Chinese Super League side have a 100% record so far, winning two from two and a third win in a row could put them at arm’s length from their chasers at the halfway point of the group stage.
“It was important for us that we started with a victory, and now against another strong team, we need to focus on trying to win. We need to try to win every game and aim to qualify to the next stage,” said Genesio.
“I will make some changes, not all the same XI will play all the time. We have to worry about the risk of fatigue and injury. The schedule is tight, and we have to be cautious.”
On the other side, Melbourne Victory assistant coach Steve Kean’s positive outlook was amplified by his hope that the Australian side can play well and progress to the next round.
“We have psychologically turned the bubble situation into an opportunity to gel and get to know each other at a more human level. And a centralised tournament helps us prepare and focus on every game without having to worry about more travel before each game and hopefully we can continue and progress in the competition,” said Kean.
Seoul face Chiangrai
In the other Group E encounter today, head coach Lee Won-jun is set to pick only those who are in top physical condition for his FC Seoul starting XI against Thailand’s Chiangrai United.
The 2013 runners-up got their campaign off to a winning start back in February, defeating Melbourne Victory 1-0, but another Park Chu-young goal was not enough on Saturday as they lost 2-1 to Beijing FC to drop to second in Group E.
“We have one win and one loss so far. We have an ambition and objective to win the matches ahead, we will strive to win the next one. We finished analysing our opponents and we will choose the players who are in the best condition to start the game,” said Lee.
After losing their first two matches in the competition with the same 1-0 scoreline to Melbourne Victory and Beijing FC, Chiangrai United have had to wait nine months for their third-ever AFC Champions League match.
“We hope to do our best in this tournament, not only for our team, but also as representatives of Thailand in the AFC Champions League,” said head coach Alongkorn Thongaum.
Perth Glory’s youngsters ready for the challenge
In Group F, Perth Glory may be staring down the barrel of elimination, but their players remain in a buoyant mood ahead of today’s clash against Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai, according to head coach Cristian Ola.
Without a point from their opening two matches, Perth are still without the services of a number of senior players
Perth fielded a legion of new faces in last Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Shanghai Shenhua, with teenagers like Bryce Bafford and 16-year-old Joshua Rawlins receiving their first senior starts for the club.
“It’s a young squad, and very motivated,” said Ola, who is part of the technical staff led by former Socceroo Richard Garcia. “Together, they are getting along very well and forming a fantastic group, and for them it’s a fantastic challenge to have. They are very excited every day and every hour in this hub. They’re making the most out of it.”
In Perth’s favour is the six-day break they have enjoyed since their last match, with Ulsan back in action just 72 hours after their impressive 3-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua.
Ulsan boss Kim Do-hoon believes his squad are sufficiently primed to continue their winning form.
“For the players there is a sense of pressure to play every three days, but what I can say to the players is that the ACL is a big chance to show your quality and that how we have prepared is more important than the situation now,” said the former Korea Republic star.
With four points from two matches, Ulsan can put themselves to within touching distance of the Round of 16 with another three points.
Tokyo’s Hasegawa wary of Shenhua
FC Tokyo head coach Kenta Hasegawa has brushed off suggestions his side are favourites against an undermanned Shanghai Shenhua FC, saying the Chinese club’s local players will mount a genuine challenge in today’s Group F tie.
With star imports Giovanni Moreno and Kim Shin-wook unlikely to feature, Shenhua will require strong performances from their domestic players in the crucial Group F Matchday Three tie, but Hasegawa refuses to take Choi Kang-hee’s injury-hit squad lightly.
Speaking ahead of his team’s first AFC Champions League outing in nine months, the Tokyo boss said his side would need to be at their best to retain the unbeaten start to the competition they began in February.
“Of course, without the ability of these foreign players, maybe (Shanghai) have reduced factors in the team,” said the former Japanese international.
“We pay lots of attention in the AFC Champions League, where especially Chinese teams have very good foreigners, and famous foreign players, but we also pay attention to the domestic players of the Chinese.
“They are very strong and skillful players in their own right, so I don’t see there is a big factor of change for the game tomorrow.”
A two-time AFC Champions League-winning boss with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Shenhua boss Choi Kang-hee confirmed he will make significant personnel changes from Saturday’s disappointing 3-1 loss to Ulsan Hyundai, calling on his charges to push through any fatigue.
“For this game we still rotate some players, but as the head coach and as players, we still have to try our best to win the game,” said Choi. “We’ve already analysed the data and the videos of FC Tokyo. We have to make a strategy which blocks out their important attacking players, but most important for this team is for our players to recover as quickly as possible.”
1pm: Beijing FC (CHN) vs Melbourne Victory (AUS)
4pm: FC Seoul (KOR) vs Chiangrai United (THA)
1pm: FC Tokyo (JPN) vs Shanghai Shenhua FC (CHN)
4pm: Perth Glory (AUS) vs Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR)
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