Ahead of Shanghai SIPG – Jiangsu Suning

Today the final matches of the first leg of the round of 16 in the AFC Champions League took/takes place, it’s one down and one to go as Jeju United – Urawa Red Diamonds kicked off as early as 15:00 local time and ended in a 2-0 win for the Korean hosts after Marcelo Toscano powered home an early header and Jin Seong-Wook got the second on a quick break in stoppage time. No away goals leaves the Reds with a steep hill to climb in front of the “Red Wall” in Urawa in next weeks reverse fixture.

Onto the very last match of the week: the Chinese affair where Shanghai SIPG takes on Jiangsu Suning at home. Looking at the league table, in which SIPG are merely two points shy of leaders Guangzhou Evergrande and Jiangsu are found at the very bottom, it would be easy to get ahead of oneself and call this for the home side in advance. However, Jiangsu have looked a completely different team in the ACL, winning five out of six to cruise through the group stage. Also, they have shown signs of improvement in domestic play as the first CSL win of the year was an impressive one against Shandong Luneng ten days ago, that was followed by a hard fought defeat in the toughest fixture imaginable (2-1 away to Evergrande) last friday. Advancing to the quarter finals is, most likely, also Choi Yong-Soo’s only hope of making it through next week as the manager of Jiangsu so if the players are willing to go the extra yard for their gaffer it may tip the scale in their favour. André Villas-Boas’ side, on the other hand, have been in terrific form and the portuguese will relish the idea of not having to choose between Odil Akhmedov and Elkeson, with the Uzbeki midfielder being an AFC-player, meaning SIPG, adding Hulk and Oscar, can bring all their foreign firepower up front. The showdown between two Brazilian internationals on either side (with Ramires and Alex Teixeira expected to start for Jiangsu) also adds some extra flavour to a very promising evening of football.

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