Shanghai SIPG coach Sven-Goran Eriksson is braced for a difficult showdown with Melbourne Victory as the AFC Champions League debutants prepare to meet the Australian champions.
Victory will host the Chinese Super League runners-up on matchday one in Group G on Wednesday, with all eyes on former England and Manchester City boss Eriksson, and Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan.
SIPG are competing in the Champions League for the first time in their history after accounting for Muangthong United 3-0 in a play-off a fortnight ago, having finished just two points behind CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao last season.
And while Eriksson and Co. have dominated the headlines since touching down in Melbourne, the 68-year-old Swede is well aware of the threat Victory pose as they kick-off their fifth ACL campaign.
“We are looking forward to it [Wednesday’s match] very much,” Eriksson told Omnisport.
“We were fighting very hard last season to reach our target and our target was to qualify for the Champions League.
“We know it’s difficult. There are many games and it is a very hard group. Three very tough teams [including Gamba Osaka and Suwon Bluewings] we have to meet, the first one coming on Wednesday.”
As well as boasting Gyan in their ranks, SIPG are able to call upon former Evergrande and Fluminense attacker Dario Conca.
However, the key to any potential success for SIPG this season, particularly in Asia’s premier club competition, could be Brazilian forward Elkeson, who won the ACL and CSL double with Evergrande last term.
Eriksson added: “We have some players with a lot of experience from high-level football and also in the Asian Champions League. But we also have a lot of players who have not played Champions League football so it is a tough test for them.
“They know we are meeting a team that have been rather successful. They have been in the Champions League before and we have a lot of respect for Melbourne Victory.”
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