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Shanghai: Having made their AFC Champions League debut last year, Shanghai SIPG have at worst matched their quarter-final finish in the 2017 edition, but their sights will be set on going even further under Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas.

With the former Chelsea and Zenit Saint Petersburg boss at the helm, the club have impressed in their second continental campaign, qualifying from Group F with a game to spare ahead of last year's semi-finalists FC Seoul and 2014 winners Western Sydney Wanderers, although they were pipped to the top spot by Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan.  

Last year’s fully-stocked attack that included 2014 AFC Champions League Top Scorer Asamoah Gyan, Argentine schemer Dario Conca, two-time AFC Champions League winner Elkeson, China star Wu Lei and powerhouse Brazilian Hulk looks to have been upgraded even further this year.

Gyan, who struggled in China, has moved to Turkey via Al Ahli, while Conca has returned to South America and Brazilian club Flamengo.

Shanghai SIPG, however, have invested in exciting replacements with Chelsea star midfielder Oscar joining in a big money move, while Uzbekistan national team talent Odil Ahmedov also joined from Russian Premier League club FC Krasnodar.

Wu Lei and Elkeson continue to excel in the colours of Shanghai SIPG and Hulk, whose sole 2016 AFC Champions League experience consisted of a heavy defeat at the quarter-final stage resulting in the club’s elimination, has thrived on the continent this time around and is the side’s leading scorer in Asia this year.

The club are also well stocked in midfield, with Villas-Boas able to call on the likes of China internationals Yu Hai and Cai Huikang, as well as former China U-23 wide player Lu Wenjun and starlet Wei Shihao.

In defence, Shanghai SIPG feature the likes of Wang Shenchao (more than 200 league appearances for the club) as well as China internationals Shi Ke and Fu Huan, while goalkeeper Yan Junling is challenging for the national team number one shirt with Zeng Cheng and Wang Dalei.

The Chinese Super League side’s Group Stage campaign was characterised by several high scoring games with an average four goals per match featuring the Shanghai club.

However, their opener did not suggest a deluge of goals would be forthcoming, as there was just the one entry on the scoresheet by fulltime with Hulk netting the winner on 53 minutes away at FC Seoul.

The floodgates were well and truly opened on Matchday Two, though, when Shanghai SIPG hosted Western Sydney.

The home fans were treated to a five-star performance from their team as Hulk, Oscar, Shi Ke, Elkeson and Wu Lei were all on target as the A-League side were routed 5-1 .

 

Five goals were then shared between the sides when Urawa visited Shanghai but Hulk netted the decisive third for the hosts as they came out on top of a narrow 3-2 win.

The return meeting saw no such fireworks as Rafael Silva netted the only goal for the J.Leaguers.

Shanghai SIPG were not to be nullified for long, though, as they added six more goals to their tally in the final two Group Stage games.

Hulk, Zhang Wei, Wu Lei and Oscar all found the net in Shanghai SIPG’s penultimate game – a 4-2 win over FC Seoul that secured their place in the Round of 16.

In their final Group F tie against Western Sydney Wanderers, Wu Lei scored one of the fastest ever goals seen in the AFC Champions League but Shanghai SIPG were to ultimately lose the game in Australia, in a 3-2 defeat that cost them top spot in the group.

Instead, it was to be Urawa who would finish in first place and so Shanghai SIPG would be drawn against fellow Chinese side Jiangsu FC in the Round of 16.

In the first leg at the Shanghai Stadium, Roger Martinez gave Jiangsu the lead in the ninth minute before Hulk levelled from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute.

Ahmedov claimed the winner with the final touch of the first half to give Shanghai SIPG the advantage going into the second leg in Nanjing.

At Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre a week later, Elkeson gave Shanghai SIPG some extra breathing room in the 34th minute when he prodded home from close range.

Elkeson then played a key part in Shanghai SIPG’s second goal nine minutes later, delaying a one-on-one for a fraction of a second before dinking the ball over the advancing Zhang Sipeng and drawing an own goal from covering defender Yang Xiaotian.

Jiangsu made a spirited fightback in the second half, with Hong Jeong-ho heading home in the 75th minute and Wu Xi equalising in the third minute of added-on time, but Hulk struck back to wrap up the win and confirm Shanghai SIPG’s place in the last eight.


The Coach: Andre Villas-Boas

Famous for his time in his native Portugal, England and Russia, Andre Villas Boas is still only 39 years old yet boasts seven major trophies to his name as coach. The youngest manager ever to win a European championship when he led Porto to the Europa League title in 2011, Villas Boas joined Shanghai SIPG ahead of the 2017 campaign to replace the outgoing Sven-Goran Eriksson on the back of three trophies in two years with Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg. The Portuguese coach also previously had spells at English Premier League sides Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.


The Key Player: Hulk

Powerhouse forward Hulk has, it’s fair to say, found his second taste of AFC Champions League action far more to his liking than the first time around. A 5-0 defeat to eventual winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the quarter-final, second leg last year was the Brazilian’s inauspicious debut to the tournament but at the 2017 edition he has shone. With six goals and five assists so far, Hulk has been in incredible form for Shanghai SIPG. At the last eight stage, Hulk is just one off the tournament’s leading scorer Omar Abdulrahman and, if he maintains this hot streak, Shanghai SIPG could go all the way.


Q-FINAL FIXTURES

August 22

Shanghai SIPG vs Guangzhou Evergrande

(Shanghai Stadium) 

September 12 

Guangzhou Evergrande vs Shanghai SIPG 

(Tianhe Stadium)

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017 AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SCHEDULE & RESULTS

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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