ACL preview: Guangzhou Evergrande v Sydney FC

Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic controls the ball during the game against Guangzhou Evergrande.

Make no mistake, says Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden, there is plenty on the line for both sides as Sydney FC eye top spot in the group against Scolari’s beleaguered Chinese Super League outfit on Tuesday night.

Sydney FC ‘s trip to Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday may be a dead rubber for both teams–though for very different reasons –but the final Group H game in the 2016 AFC Champions League could be a very intriguing one. And important.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is under pressure. One leading Chinese football writer said last week that his position at the club was ‘precarious’.

It is all down to the fact that the Southern China Tigers were eliminated from the continental competition with one game remaining.

The holders were hoping to make it three from four in Asia. Instead, they now have to concentrate on making it six from six in the Chinese Super League.

Much of it is down to Sydney’s famous win over the star-studded Reds on Matchday Two.

After a goalless draw at home to Pohang Steelers on the opening day, it left Scolari and his men in a tough situation.

Taking a quick 2-0 lead at home to Urawa Reds seemed to put the team back on track but 2-0 ended 2-2.

And then a loss in Japan left it out of Chinese hands and despite a win at Pohang Steelers, it was too little too late for the Southern Chinese Tigers. Guangzhou was out.

Scolari has been criticised in China for sticking with the same old players week in, week out and not giving what is regarded as a talented group of youngsters chances to shine.

It was striking that the win in Pohang came with veteran midfielder Zheng Zhi suspended and star striker Jackson Martinez injured.

Xu Xin came in for the captain and looked very composed indeed. Li Yuanyi, also 22, is another one to watch.

Brazilian midfielder Alan was not registered for the Champions League and it is rumoured that his relationship with the boss is frosty.

He played at the weekend however and shone in a 2-1 win at home to Shanghai Shenhua, scoring twice with one beauty of a curler from outside the area.

The three points keeps the five-time champion on top of the table.

It should then be a committed, if slightly younger than usual, Guangzhou team and while Scolari’s priority is now winning league title number six, another defeat in Asia would not go down well.

But, and this is not a sentence anyone would have been expecting when the draw was made, Sydney don’t need to be concerned with Guangzhou.

Graham Arnold’s men have their eyes on top spot.

The coach has already said that it would be preferable to play Shandong Luneng in the second round rather than Group F winners FC Seoul.

Seoul has been the most impressive performer in the entire tournament so far. The Koreans’ 4-1 dismantling of Japanese champion Sanfrecce Hiroshima after going a goal behind was one of the best 45 minutes or so seen in Asia for years.

The 2013 finalist, who lost to Guangzhou then and bored the entire continent in the 2015 competition, has scored 16 goals so far with Brazilian hotshot Adriano getting nine. Seoul is confident, playing well and carry a serious attacking threat.

With Urawa likely to defeat the already-eliminated second-string Pohang team in Japan, Sydney will need to take three points in China to be sure of top spot.

To do so in a tough group would be a great achievement in its own right but it also makes the path to the quarterfinals a little easier.

Football Federation Australia

#AsianChampionsLeague2016 preview: Sydney FC v Guangzhou Evergrande

Sydney FC playmaker Milos Ninkovic and big money Guangzhou signing Jackson Martinez.
The cashed-up Chinese Super League powerhouse arrived in style on Sunday fresh from a 2-0 win on the weekend. Asian football expert @JohnnyDuerden has the inside word on Sydney FC’s powerful opponents on Wednesday night.

Guangzhou Evergrande need no introduction to Australian fans.

Four titanic clashes against Western Sydney Wanderers in the past couple of years ensures they are a familiar name.

The return to Sydney will not be a welcome one and officials at the club bristle when it is suggested that they struggle against Australian opposition.

There is a determination to put that idea to bed as well as the fact that the opening game at home last week was a 0-0 draw against Pohang Steelers.

The formation used then was 4-2-3-1 and again on Saturday’s comfortable 2-0 win over Jiangsu Suning in the Super Cup.

What is often overlooked amid headlines of big name signings is that this is a settled side that has evolved over the years.

The likes of  Zhang Linpeng and Kim Young-gwon and Zheng Zhi have played together for years and form a solid foundation to the team and under Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Guangzhou have become more pragmatic under the Brazilian and are happy defend when necessary, it is just that other teams tend to sit back when confronted with the five-time Chinese champions.

Scolari got the job last year to bring a ‘more Brazilian’ flavour to the club.

There were concerns at some defensive frailties under Fabio Cannavaro, with that in mind the 2002 World Cup winner has worked to eradicate those as much as possible – more than before, the Southern Chinese Tigers defend from the front.

The team is not averse to spoiling tactics when under the cosh, a little tug here and there inside your own half to stop attacks before they start, a little time-wasting when ahead.

Nothing too out of the ordinary but more pronounced since Scolari arrived.

Under Cannavaro and Lippi, the Reds played out from the deep more often than not with Kim, regarded as one of, if not the, best centre-back in Asia, bringing the ball forward for either Zheng or the two full-backs Zhang and Li Xuepeng.

This still happens under Scolari but there is a greater willingness to get the ball forward quickly too.

Zheng Zhi and Paulinho provide a solid base in midfield. Zheng is Scolari’s lieutenant on the field and organises the team and has developed into a highly intelligent leader.

Paulinho offers more drive going forward and the former Tottenham star has impressed since moving to China last year.

Most of the time at home when the original Chinese Super League big-spenders are in action against weaker opposition, Guangzhou attacks and does so aggressively.

Ricardo Goulart is the fulcrum going forward, coming deep or going wide, looking to create chances while getting into the box to score himself and he managed two against Jiangsu and his movement caused all sorts of problems.

How he links with new $65 million marksman Jackson Martinez will be crucial.

At the weekend, Scolari selected a strong line-up as he searches for fluency. The Brazilian blames the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup for eating into his pre-season.

Huang Bowen and Rong Hao came in to play either side of Goulart in attacking positions to replace Zheng Long and Yu Hanchao.

Huang was impressive and made both goals and with his experience in Asia, and goal threat from just outside of the area, may get the nod to start.

Guangzhou have not yet found their form and with just two pre-season games, will be rustier than most after a long-trip to Australia and this could play into Sydney’s hands.

There will be, however, plenty of Chinese support.

Guangzhou has a habit of giving free tickets to Chinese students and workers when they travel in Asia and there are expected to be several thousand ‘Reds’ cheering the champions on.

But plenty of home support will be demanded to help the battered and bruised Sky Blues get over the line after a hectic week where they played a Sydney derby, flew to Tokyo to face Urawa Reds, then flew home to play a Big Blue last Saturday.

That’s some schedule and with the travel as well as injuries taking a toll, Arnie’s men will need a lift from the Cove and Co.

Watch out for

Jackson Martinez. An easy choice but with a big price tags come big expectations.

The Colombian striker failed to make a mark in his debut against Pohang and Scolari has been defending his big signing in the Chinese media.

It will be interesting to see his relationship with second striker Ricardo Goulart develops. The Brazilian linked up well last season with Elkeson but there was a lack of chemistry with Martinez last week.

There are also those runs from the right-back position from Zhang Linpeng.

The versatile defender has levels of stamina that are rarely seen, and whether it is at the 90-second or 90-minute mark, he keeps going forward.

Strengths and weaknesses

There are multiple threats in a team that tends to attack aggressively from the start. If Martinez doesn’t get you then Goulart just might.

It could be a free-kick from Paulinho or a long-range special from Huang Bowen. There is a resilience to Guangzhou, too. This is a team full of experienced players who have won things in Asia.

There are defensive weaknesses and centre-back Feng Xiaoting makes his fair share of mistakes.

Zheng Zhi is the fulcrum but as he is approaching 36, he is slowing down and can be pressured.

And as Guangzhou are not used to being attacked, it can be the best tactic.


Football Federation Australia


AFC Champions League 2015 Leg 2 match stats

Guangzhou: A look at the key statistics to emerge following Guangzhou Evergrande’s AFC Champions League victory over Al Ahli on Saturday night.

Result: Guangzhou Evergrande 1-0 Al Ahli (Elkeson 54′)

Guangzhou Evergrande 57%
Al Ahli 43%

Goal Attempts
Guangzhou Evergrande 9
Al Ahli 4

Shots on Target
Guangzhou Evergrande 4
Al Ahli 2

Shots off Target
Guangzhou Evergrande 5
Al Ahli 2

Saves Made
Guangzhou Evergrande 2
Al Ahli 3

Guangzhou Evergrande 5
Al Ahli 1

Guangzhou Evergrande 20
Al Ahli 13

Guangzhou Evergrande 1
Al Ahli 4

Fouls Committed
Guangzhou Evergrande 12
Al Ahli 16

Yellow Cards
Guangzhou Evergrande 2
Al Ahli 1

Red Cards
Guangzhou Evergrande 0
Al Ahli 1

Photos: Lagardère Sports

Asian  Football Confederation Website

Kashiwa Reysol seek to end Guangzhou Evergrande losing streak

Kuala Lumpur: Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol must end a two-game continental losing streak at Guangzhou Evergrande’s Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium on Tuesday to secure a return to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League with the J.League side also needing to score at least three goals at the home of the 2013 winners.

Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou posted a dominant 3-1 win at Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium at the end of last month thanks to an own goal from stand-in Kashiwa captain Daisuke Suzuki as well as strikes from Brazilian midfielder Paulinho and China forward Gao Lin.

Kashiwa striker Masato Kudo was able to grab a late lifeline for the home side ahead of the return fixture, although Tatsuma Yoshida’s side must claim a first AFC Champions League success at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium having lost during the group stage in 2012 and 2013 semi-finals.

“I’ve played there twice already and know how intimidating the venue can get, but I’m used to it already. More than that, we want to make them silent with the power and strength we have,” said Kudo, who featured as Kashiwa lost 3-1 in the 2012 group stage and 4-0 during the second leg of their 2013 semi-final at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium.

“I tried my best to get at least two goals back from them before the end of the first leg, and I ended up getting one goal, and I would like to turnaround the position in the away match in Guangzhou.

“Most people believe that it is now too difficult to win, but what we know is that each individual player will have strong feeling towards being number one in Asia, so I think we must think about that and fight as if it’s life or death.”

Kashiwa, who did share a goalless draw with Guangzhou at home in the group stage of the 2012 AFC Champions League, warmed up for the trip to China with a 1-0 defeat against Urawa Red Diamonds in the J.League on Friday.

But midfielder and regular captain Hidekazu Otani did return to the full-strength side against Urawa having missed the first leg due to injury, although defender Naoki Wako remains a doubt due to a concussion suffered prior to the defeat by Guangzhou last month.

“Even though we lost the match 3-1, we were able keep the hope with that one goal by Kudo, and rather than 3-0 ahead of the away match, with 3-1 we have more hope and mentally it’s completely different,” said Kashiwa coach Yoshida.

“With a quite packed schedule it will obviously affect the physical strength of the players, but we will try our best to manage it ahead of the second leg.”

AFC Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg Fixtures (1st Leg scores in brackets)

Guangzhou Evergrande (3) v (1) Kashiwa Reysol
Lekhwiya (1) v (4) Al Hilal
Gamba Osaka (0) v (0) Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Al Ahli (1) v (0) Naft Tehran

Opponents Guangzhou, meanwhile, enjoyed significantly better preparations as the 2013 AFC Champions League winners moved to the top of the Super League with a 3-0 win over Shanghai SIPG on Saturday.

The victory saw Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side extend their winning streak to three games, while Guangzhou have now not lost in any competition since the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 tie with Korea Republic’s Seongnam FC at the end of May.

“The first leg of the quarter-final was fascinating and both sides showed their own merits, although we did a better job in terms of scoring,” said Scolari. “But that has already become history, right now we have to focus on the upcoming match.”

Also on Tuesday, Lekhwiya face a similar task against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal although the Qatar champions will look to overturn a 4-1 first leg deficit in Doha.

Brazilian Carlos Eduardo and compatriot Ailton as well as Khalid Kaabi were on target for 2014 finalists Al Hilal at King Fahd International Stadium last month, although Youssef Msakni was able to grab a potentially crucial away goal for Lekhwiya in the first half.

The semi-final line-up will be confirmed on Wednesday as Japan’s Gamba Osaka entertain Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors with the tie level on aggregate following a goalless draw last month, while Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates will look to build on a slender one-goal advantage against Iran’s Naft Tehran in Dubai.

Photos: WSG


Asian Football Confederation

Guangzhou Evergrande boost Brazilian contingent by roping in Robinho

Guangzhou: AFC Champions League 2015 quarter-finalists Guangzhou Evergrande have strengthened their arsenal ahead of their last-eight clash with Kashiwa Reysol by signing Brazil international striker Robinho on a six-month contract.

“Robinho has joined on a free contract for a period of six months,” the four-time Chinese Super League champions announced in a statement on their official website.

“After the expiration of the contract the club have a priority right of renewal. The player will wear jersey number 60. He will have his medical around 20 July after joining up with the team in Guangzhou.”

The signing of Robinho, who has had spells with Real Madrid, Manchester City, and AC Milan, takes the number of Brazilian players on the books of the 2013 AFC Champions League winners to  six, with the 31-year-old’s signing coming hot on the heels of Guangzhou’s capture of midfielder Paulinho in a GBP 9.9 million deal from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

Robinho (pictured celebrating scoring against Paraguay in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Copa America) also joins compatriots Ricardo Goulart, who currently leads the 2015 ACL scoring charts with eight goals; Elkeson, an influential figure in Guangzhou’s 2013 continental triumph; former Red Bull Salzburg striker Alan; and midfielder Rene Junior.

Guangzhou, who are under the helm of Brazil’s 2002 FIFA World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, continue their quest for a second ACL title when they face Kashiwa in Japan in the first leg of their quarter-final clash on August 25 before the Southern Tigers host Kashiwa in the return fixture on September 15.

Photo: AFP



Asian Football Confederation

Renato Maurício Prado ironiza ida de Luís Felipe Scolari ao Guangzhou Evergrande

Reprodução / TV Verdes Mares

Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club.png


Futebol é uma benção

E ainda há quem contrate o Felipão, pagando-lhe uma fortuna… Negócio da China é isso aí!


Renato Maurício Prado – O GLOBO – 06/06/2015

Guangzhou Evergrande 0 – 2 Western Sydney Wanderers

Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg

Flag of Australia.svg


Western Sydney Wanderers have fallen just short of a remarkable revival in the AFC Champions League, beating Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 away from home but failing to progress to the round of 16.

The Australian holders had looked likely to bow out of the tournament in the group stage when they lost 2-1 at home to Kashima Antlers on matchday six last month.

Tony Popovic’s men demonstrated their pedigree for upsets and improbable triumphs by defeating the Chinese Super League title-holders away from home on Tuesday night, courtesy of goals from Mark Bridge and Tomi Juric.

But an injury-time winner in the other Group H fixture saw FC Seoul defeat Kashima 3-2 away from home, the South Korean side securing second spot behind financial powerhouse Evergrande as the pair advanced to the knockout stages.

Coached by Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, Guangzhou had the better of a disjointed start to the game, as both sets of players struggled to cope with heavy rain and a pitch that was threatening to become waterlogged.

Five minutes in Li Xuepeng connected with a corner at the back post but sent his effort wide of goal. It took until the 18th minute for the Wanderers to register a meaningful attempt, Nikita Rukavytsya completing a smart turn and smacking a shot against the post from a tight angle.

Eight minute later Zhang Jiaqi did well to create space for himself at the top of the Wanderers’ penalty area but ended up firing his shot well over. On the half-hour mark Yu Hanchao sent a half-chance harmlessly wide, but there’s no denying it was the home team enjoying the majority of the opportunities.

That mattered little on 33 minutes though, when defender Kim Young-Gwon slipped as he attempted to clear the ball on the edge of the area. Bridge, who had previously appeared to be in an offside position, collected possession, beat Feng Xiaoting with a nutmeg and dispatched a shot past Li Shuai at the goalkeeper’s near post.

The Wanderers twice went close to doubling their advantage early in the second half. Iacopo La Rocca, outstanding throughout the match, stung the palms of Li Shuai with a fierce long-range effort in the 49th minute.

On 63 minutes the Italian midfielder was involved again, slipping in Dutch winger Romeo Castelen, who also forced a save with his shot.

The closet Guangzhou came to equalising was through Dong Xuesheng, who raced onto a headed through-ball in the 57th minute but was denied by the quick thinking of Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic, who rushed out to clear the danger.

The Wanderers refused to sit back and protect their lead, going close again in the final 10 minutes through Yojiro Takahagi, who nearly scored straight from a corner, and Tomi Juric. The Socceroos striker sealed the result in Western Sydney’s favour with a superb strike across the face of goal in the final moments.

But Mauricio Molina’s 91st-minute winner for FC Seoul in Japan ultimately meant the Wanderers’ heroics counted for nothing.

Football Federation Australia

Gallant Western Sydney Wanderers fall to Guangzhou Evergrande in ACL thriller

March 4, 2015 – 10:04PM

Sebastian Hassett

Football repórter

Western Sydney Wanderers 2 Guangzhou Evergrande 3

Equaliser: Iacopo La Rocca celebrates his goal with teammates on Wednesday night.Equaliser: Iacopo La Rocca celebrates his goal with teammates on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty Images

In the relentless, somewhat unnerving quest of Guangzhou Evergrande to conquer Asian football, completely and indisputably, the figure of the Western Sydney Wanderers marked a hurdle that needed leaping.

The memory of last year’s two-leg Asian Champions League quarter-final hung over this group stage battle like a dark cloud, a double-pronged reminder of the Chinese side’s failing and the Australian side’s ultimate success.

That defeat has played some part in seeing the club’s joint owners, Evergrande Real Estate and online auction site Alibaba, pour in more money than ever before to complete their mission of winning everything possible at home and abroad. Asian football has never seen anything like it.

But the Wanderers and their salary-capped squad, who collectively earn a decimal point of what Fabio Cannovaro’s men earn, wouldn’t fold without a fight. The A-League catastrophe has left them with only continental pride to protect and they did so with great spirit on Wednesday night.


After trailing 1-0 at half-time, the Wanderers battled back to equalise from a set piece, Iacopo La Rocca heading home from a corner, giving two-thirds of the 11,418 on hand hope of another miracle – one to match last year. A third belonged to the enormous travelling support.

However, Tony Popovic’s side could have enjoyed all the luck they had in last year’s ACL compressed into a single evening and they still wouldn’t have touched Ricardo Goulart or his able offsider, Gao Lin.

Guangzhou paid – prepare yourself – a whopping $22.5 million transfer fee for his services a few months after he was called up to the Selecao, having been the star player at Cruziero, who won the Brazilian league last year.

The fact that fellow new signing Alan, fresh from torturing the Austrian league, was injured the day before the game mattered little. Goulart, who scored the winner in their opening ACL match against FC Seoul, backed that up with a hat-trick here.

There’s half a chance he’ll be the player charged with joining Neymar in attack at the next World Cup. And while he might need to shed a kilogram between now and 2018, he boasts a frightening depth of talent.

More worrying was the fate of Zeng Cheng, the national team’s understudy goalkeeper. He clashed with a teammate in the second half and after a delay of more than 10 minutes, was carried from the field on a stretcher with his neck in a brace.

Nikita Rukavytsya fired an early warning sign for the Wanderers when his angled shot had to be tipped over by Zeng in the opening few minutes, but from there Guangzhou were firmly on top.

The hosts were dealt an early blow when Brendan Hamill, on a surging run down the right flank, was collected when he didn’t see the oncoming challenge from Zou Zheng. He tumbled awkwardly and was clearly in strife. Hamill battled on for 10 minutes before Sam Gallaway, normally a left-back, was ushered on.

Two minutes later, the disrupted back four were all over the place. Gallaway perhaps should have been minding Elkeson when the Brazilian headed the ball back into the box, with the aid of a deflection, for Goulart to smack home.

Not content with leaving the door ajar like they did on their last visit, Guangzhou tightened the screws, frantically looking for a second before half-time. Goulart’s fearsome drive soared just over as the half-hour mark ticked by.

Yet, had Nikolai Topor-Stanley been able to guide Rukvaytsya’s excellent in-swinging corner past Zeng, it would have been the perfect time to score. La Rocca showed him how it was done on the other side of half-time.

But then the game became the Gao and Goulart show. Barely two minutes after La Rocca’s header, the Chinese international broke down the right and inside, giving a pass to Goulart that he expertly flicked inside Ante Covic’s near post.

Just five minutes later, Gao again sprung forward on the counter-attack and resisted the temptation to shoot, instead cutting back to Goulart to make it 3-1.

Zeng’s injury – speculated to be a broken cheekbone – provided 17 minutes of injury time, perhaps an Asian record. Romeo Castelen revived hope with a splendid header four minutes in.

But just as it was in the derby at the same venue four days before, the Wanderers’ fighting comeback would ultimately count for nought.

Source : The Canberra Times

Western Sydney Wanderers 2 – 3 Guangzhou Evergrande

Wanderers midfielder Nick Kalmar on the ball against Guangzhou Evergrande.
A hat-trick to brilliant Brazilian Ricardo Goulart has seen Western Sydney Wanderers FC slump to a 3-2 defeat to Guangzhou Evergrande in a dramatic ACL clash on Wednesday night.

More than 17 minutes of stoppage time was played in a frantic second half after Guangzhou goal-keeper Zeng Cheng was involved in a sickening collision with one of his own players.

Play was halted for more than 13 minutes as the gloveman received treatment on the pitch following a nasty head clash.

He was eventually stretchered off with what was believed to be a fractured cheekbone and serious concussion.

Up until that point it seemed Goulart’s goals – either side of Iacopo La Rocca’s second half equalizer – would be enough to give Guangzhou a comfortable win.

But the Wanderers mustered one-last effort, pulling a goal back in the third minute of injury time through Romeo Castelen to whip Parramatta Stadium into a frenzy.

With still more than 13 minutes left they pushed for another with substitute Kerem Bulut hving the best chance to snatch a draw soon after but he shot straight at Li Shuai.

There was no sign of the drama to come in a fairly subdued first half, with Goulart opening the scoring just before the midway point.

Mei Fang’s right-wing cross was nodded back across the face of goal by Elkeson, the ball eventually rolling into the path of Goulart who lashed it into the net with the aid of a deflection of Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Despite plenty of endeavor the contest was devoid of many genuine chances as both teams defences were dominating.

Goulart almost doubled the lead on 33 minutes with a classy half-volley which drew a stunning reflex save from Ante Covic.

Labinot Haliti was looking the liveliest for the Wanderers but their best chance of the first half came right near the end, Topor-Stanley’s glancing header floating inches wide of the post.

Chasing the game the Wanderers lifted the intensity after the break and got their reward 11 minutes into the second half.

Nikita Rukavytsya’s corners were dangerous all night and it was no surprise that was the avenue for the equaliser.

No Guangzhou defender tracked La Rocca’s run to the near post, the Italian rising well and flicking on a header which went in off the far post.

But the jubilation of the Wanderers players and their fans lasted just two minutes before Goulart struck again, expertly tucking home Gao Lin’s cross at the near post.

It was that combination again which unlocked the Wanderers defence just six minutes later as Goulart completed his treble before Castelen’s response set up a thrilling climax.

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (La Rocca 56’, Castelen 90+3’)

Guangzhou Evergrande 3 (Goulart 19’, 58’, 64’)

Crowd: 11,418 @ Parramatta Stadium


Kerem Bulut and Tomi Juric to fight for start against Guangzhou Evergrande

March 3, 2015 – 6:13PM

Dominic Bossi

Sports reporter

Wild debut: Kerem Bulut laps up the adulation after scoring his second goal against Sydney FC.

Wild debut: Kerem Bulut laps up the adulation after scoring his second goal against Sydney FC. Photo: Getty Images

The impressive debut of Kerem Bulut in Western Sydney Wanderers’ loss to Sydney FC has given coach Tony Popovic a selection headache for their Asian Champions League match against Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday night.

The new fan favourite bagged a brace against the Sky Blues in their dramatic 4-3 loss in his first ever professional match in Australia and put significant pressure on star striker Tomi Juric for a starting place against Guangzhou.

Amid a hectic match period of three games in the space of a week, both shared significant minutes on the field in the same role against Sydney FC with Bulut replaced by Juric early in the second half. The team only trained in recovery mode on Monday and Popovic says it is unlikely he will decide who will start against Evergrande until match day.

“We’ll have a look, we did a very light recovery session day. It’s been a hectic week in terms of travel and games and it’s a good, good headache to have. Were pleased that Tomi played well in Japan and Kerem was fantastic in the derby, that’s a little bit of what we’ve had in the squad this season,” Popovic said.

Bulut’s brace against his former club on Saturday night helped the Wanderers claw back to 3-3 from trailing three goals down midway into the first half and Popovic believes the best is still yet to come from the former Young Socceroo star.

“Kerem hasn’t played football for about seven months and once he and some other players get that 10-12 games under their belt, you’ll see the best of them,” Popovic said.

The Wanderers coach said his team would require a “miracle” to make the A-League finals as they’re still anchored to the bottom of the table with just eight points, but ruled out focusing all his attention on the Asian Champions League.

“We’ve got a lot of pride in our club and it’s still possible. We’ve won 10 in a row before. The boys will tell you I’m a real optimist, I’m a real believer and of course there’s a long way off making it, but it would be unfair to say we will just concentrate on the champions’ [League]. I think it will be disrespectful to the other A-League clubs fighting for positions,” he said.


Source  : The Canberra Times