Evergrande faces historic challenge against SIPG in ACL

Reuters
SIPG thrashed Evergrande 4-0 in Shanghai last month and the two-time champion hosts the return meeting knowing no team has overturned a four-goal deficit in the ACL quarterfinals.
Reuters
Imaginechina

Wu Lei of Shanghai SIPG celebrates after scoring against Guangzhou Evergrande during the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarterfinal at Shanghai Stadium on August 22, 2017.

Guangzhou Evergrande will need to make history on Tuesday if it is to maintain its pursuit of a clean sweep of trophies when it faces Shanghai SIPG in the second leg of the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League.

SIPG thrashed Evergrande 4-0 in Shanghai last month and the two-time champion hosts the return meeting knowing no team has overturned a four-goal deficit in the quarterfinals.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's Evergrande currently leads the Chinese Super League standings by eight points from SIPG while the teams are also due to meet in the second leg of the Chinese FA Cup later in the month, with SIPG holding a 2-1 advantage.

But with Evergrande welcoming back seven players from the China national team which was eliminated from qualifying for the World Cup last week, Scolari believes his team now may have an advantage.

"SIPG and Evergrande have the same problem with fatigue," said Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning coach after the team's 3-1 win over Changchun Yatai in the Chinese Super League on Friday.

"However, Evergrande creates the basis of the national team, so we are the most influential team in the country. Now the national team's mission has come to an end we can finally have a full training session together."

Hulk scored the first-leg opener for Andre Villas-Boas' side, joining al-Ain's Omar Abdulrahman as the tournament's leading scorer with seven goals, before Wang Shenchao and a Wu Lei double gave SIPG the chance to make its first ACL semifinals.

Evergrande, meanwhile, is aiming to claim the title for the third time in five seasons having previously won the continental crown in 2013 and 2015.

The winner will face Japanese opposition in the semifinals, with Kawasaki Frontale holding a 3-1 advantage from the first leg over fellow J-League side Urawa Red Diamonds.

Urawa, winner of the title in 2007, holds what could be a precious away goal thanks to Yuki Muto's strike, even if Toru Oniki's Kawasaki have the upper hand after two goals from Yu Kobayashi and one from Elsinho.

In the western half of the draw, Gulf heavyweights al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia's al-Hilal will meet in Riyadh after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.

Al-Ain, which won the inaugural ACL back in 2003, is aiming to advance to the semifinals for the third time in four years while al-Hilal is seeking its first ACL title since 2000.

The winner will meet either Iran's Persepolis or Saudi Arabia's al-Ahli in the semifinals.

Al-Ahli hold a slender advantage from the first leg after the teams drew 2-2 in Persepolis's 'home' game, which was held in Oman.

Both matches of the quarterfinal are in neutral venues due to diplomatic tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.


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