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Sydney is the second Australian team into which Shandong has bumped during the AFC Champions League and one thinks that the Chinese side will post its second win on Aussie soil.
A place in the AFC Champions League last eight will be up for grabs when Sydney hosts Shandong on Wednesday, with the tie level at 1-1 following last week’s draw in China. Sydney opened the scoring through former Australia defender David Carney but only after Shandong had missed a penalty kick – actually, Sky Blues goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic saved it. Shandong dominated Sydney throughout the first leg and it was good value for much more than the 1-1 draw that Diego Tardelli earned courtesy of his 56th-minute equaliser.
Sydney qualified for the 2016 AFC Champions League by virtue of what it achieved in the 2014-2015 Australian A-League – it finished the regular season in second position and lost the Grand Final 3-0 at Melbourne Victory. The 2015-2016 Australian A-League has just wrapped up and it was a big disaster for Sydney – the Sky Blues finished seventh with a 8-10-9 record and failed to make the Final Series. Sydney went 11 Australian A-League games without a win before it beat a disinterested Perth team 4-0 at Allianz Stadium.
The simple fact is that Sydney is not a strong side and its AFC Champions League squad is weaker than the one that it used in the Australian A-League. Sydney has ridden its luck to get to the AFC Champions League knockout phase, escaping the Group of Death despite only scoring four goals in its six Group H matches. Credit to Sydney for progressing in the AFC Champions League ahead of two of Asia’s most powerful teams, Guangzhou Evergrande and Pohang, but the Sky Blues are not quarter-finals material on what one has witnessed.
There is an obvious collateral form line to use when it comes to assessing the relative merits of Sydney and Shandong and it involves Adelaide, the side that won the Australian A-League Grand Final after finishing the regular season in first place. Adelaide hosted Shandong in the AFC Champions League third qualifying round and the Reds lost 1-2 in spite of enjoying home advantage for the one-off game. Also, Shandong held on to its lead over Adelaide despite having Wang Yongpo sent off in the 70th minute. Sydney ran into Adelaide four times during the Australian A-League and Australian Football Federation Australia Cup competitions for two draws and two losses, the most recent of which was a 0-2 defeat at Allianz Stadium. One rates Shandong as being superior to Adelaide and, clearly, the Reds are superior to Sydney according to any measure.
Bet365 is offering odds of +260 about Shandong getting the better of Sydney in their AFC Champions League last-16 second leg. A fair result of their clash last week would have been 3-1 to Shandong so one does not agree with the odds that Bet365 is listing about an away triumph for the Chinese Super League team. Shandong, which has made a poor start to its Chinese Super League campaign because it has been prioritising its AFC Champions League quest, should be trading at odds of around the +180 mark to win in Australia and the Mano Menezes-coached side knows that it must score during normal time to have any chance of qualifying for the next round. Therefore, one expects Shandong to be positive.
Shandong striker Tardelli – his father named him after the Italy midfielder whose FIFA World Cup-winning celebration received global acclaim – is a class above anyone on the Sydney roster and the Brazil international sat out his team’s Chinese Super League to be ready to face Sydney.
Shandong to beat Sydney
Wednesday 25th May, 11:00 GMT
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