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SIPG sweats on duo for ACL clash

2018-05-08 11 ℃

SHANGHAI SIPG is sweating on the fitness of its Brazilians Hulk and Oscar ahead of tomorrow’s AFC Champions League match with Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

The big-spending Chinese team may be without its 2 biggest names, who cost over US$100 million in 2016, for the first leg of the second-round clash.

Hulk, who scored 9 goals when SIPG reached the semifinals last season, picked up a thigh injury in a 1-2 home defeat to Beijing Guo’an, the second successive league loss for the Chinese Super League leader.

“We are not yet sure if Hulk can play,” Shanghai coach Vitor Pereira said. “We will have to wait for the medical reports. He is very important to us but we have to think about how we approach the next game.”

Pereira also revealed he was waiting for reports on Oscar. The former Chelsea midfielder sustained a head injury in a China FA Cup tie on May 2 and played no part in Saturday’s defeat.

Elsewhere, reigning CSL champion Guangzhou Evergrande faces Tianjin Quanjian.

“We know that this will be a tough game as Tianjin is a strong team, as I know well,” said Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro, who was in charge of Tianjin last season.

The 2006 Italian World Cup winning captain left Tianjin in November to return to Guangzhou for a second spell as coach, replacing Luiz Felipe Scolari. Guangzhou has won the last seven Chinese championships but currently sits fourth in the league standings after losing 0-3 to newly-promoted Dalian Yifang on Saturday.

“We still have to apologize to the Guangzhou fans,” Cannavaro said after the loss. “Today we did not play well and it could be that the team was thinking about the ACL. We will get back on track as soon as possible.”

Tianjin is struggling in 10th position and will rely on expensive imports Anthony Modeste of France and former Brazil international Alexandre Pato.

Two of South Korea’s three remaining teams will meet head-to-head as Ulsan Hyundai Horangi, the 2012 champion, takes on Suwon Samsung Bluewings, winner in 2001 and 2002.

Two-time winner Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors travels to Thailand’s Buriram United.

The tournament is split into two geographic zones until the final and in the western side of the draw, al-Ahli of Saudi Arabia travels to Qatar to face al-Sadd while al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates hosts al-Duhail of Doha.

Ahead of the 2018 ACL, the Saudi Arabia and UAE soccer federations requested that games with Qatari clubs be played in a neutral country but the Asian Football Confederation insisted they take place in the traditional home and away format.

Iran is assured of at least 1 team in the quarterfinals as Zob Ahan meets Esteghlal while Persepolis can make it 2 if it defeats al-Jazira of the UAE.

The second legs take place next week.