Football 2 years ago

Sydney FC ready to grab ACL moment

  • Sydney FC ready to grab ACL moment

    JINAN, CHINA - MAY 18: (CHINA OUT) Sydney FC players warm up prior to the AFC Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Shandong Luneng and Sydney FC at Jinan Olympic Sports Centre Stadium on May 18, 2016 in Jinan, China. (Photo by VCG/Getty Images)

Coach Graham Arnold hopes Sydney FC can pick apart Shandong Luneng's defensive weaknesses when his side enter uncharted Asian Champions League territory.

Sydney play in the club's maiden ACL knockout match in China on Wednesday night, against Shandong Luneng in the first of two legs of a round of 16 clash.

With a quarter-finals spot at stake, Arnold flew to China ahead of his squad so he could watch the Chinese Super League (CSL) outfit, who are struggling in third-last place in the competition with just two wins from nine games.

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Along with last weekend's scoreless draw against Changchun Yatai, the coach has watched a string of Shandong's recent matches on TV and observed vulnerabilities he believes the Sky Blues can exploit at Jinan Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.

"They've had some defensive issues the last four or five games ... they've been conceding quite a lot of goals, and I've seen enough to see where we can expose them hopefully," Arnold said.

"It'll be up to us to take our chances."

Sydney's defence has been a cornerstone of its success in Asia thus far, but with four goals from six group-stage matches the team's attack will need to step up.

"Against Guangzhou (Evergrande) we had our opportunities and didn't take them, and against Urawa Reds," Arnold said.

"We will get limited opportunities on Wednesday night but we've got to make sure we take them."

Arnold insisted his side will play to win even in the away setting, though should a draw eventuate he'd prefer a 1-1 scoreline over nil-all given the high value of away goals ahead of next week's second leg at Allianz Stadium.

The Sky Blues haven't played since their 1-0 away loss to Guangzhou three weeks ago, but Arnold said the break had given the playing group a chance to sharpen up.

Shandong, conversely, endured three matches last week and star Brazilian forward Diego Tardelli is now believed to be struggling with a hamstring injury.

"Hopefully he won't play but he's a very, very good player," Arnold said.

"Gil the Brazilian international central defender holds their backline together.

"And their two Chinese internationals are stars.

"The goalkeeper Wang Dalei people will remember back in Australia for the (Asian Cup) penalty he saved when he asked the ball boy up in Brisbane which way he should go.

"And Yang Xu is a big central striker and also a name known to a lot of Chinese people back home.

"We've got a tough assignment ahead of us ... when we come back to Australia we especially need to have a good result to make that second leg more dealable."

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