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Shanghai SIPG's Mooy looking forward to AFC Champions League return


Doha: Aaron Mooy will make his return to the AFC Champions League when the Australia international helps Shanghai SIPG launch their quest for the 2020 title against Sydney FC and the midfielder is relishing the challenge that lies ahead.

Mooy last played in the competition in the group phase of the 2014 campaign, when he featured for Western Sydney Wanderers and scored from the penalty spot in the club’s 5-0 win over Guizhou Renhe as Wanderers qualified for the knockout phase as group winners.

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By the time the knockout rounds commenced – from which Wanderers emerged as champions – Mooy had moved on, joining Melbourne City before a switch to Manchester City in England and stints at Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion. More than six years later, however, he is back in the AFC Champions League.

“Yes, I played in the AFC Champions League before with Western Sydney, but it was a long time ago,” he told the-AFC.com.

“I have good memories of the AFC Champions League, the matches were always very close. I do remember scoring a penalty, but that was a long time ago!

“Currently, I know we are one of the best teams in Asia. I’m looking forward to the tournament and hope we can play good matches and make some progress.”

SIPG kick off their campaign in Group H against the back-to-back A-League champions on Thursday before facing Yokohama F Marinos, who are coached by Mooy’s former Australia coach Ange Postecoglou, and two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. The difficulty of the task ahead is not lost on Mooy.

“For sure, we will try our best,” he said. “There are difficult circumstances this season with everything we know that is happening around the world and I know the match schedule is very tough for us. But we will fight to give the best for our club and the fans. Hopefully we can do well.”

Mooy is still in the early stages of his career with SIPG having joined the 2018 Chinese Super League winners in a surprise move from Brighton in late August. Signed as a replacement for Uzbekistan midfielder Odil Akhmedov, Mooy found himself thrust into a challenging environment with the Chinese Super League being played in a biosecure bubble in Suzhou.

However, he was soon suiting up alongside the club’s cosmopolitan crew, featuring in a side that boasts the muscular talents of Hulk alongside former Chelsea star Oscar and Mark Arnautovic.

Despite the array of talent, SIPG fell short of claiming a second league title in three seasons in the reformatted Chinese Super League campaign, eventually finishing fourth behind new champions Jiangsu Suning.

“To be honest, it has been difficult because we have been in a bubble for a long time and it has been a difficult start to my time in China,” said Mooy.

“But I am settled with the team now and I know my teammates and my coaches and everybody will help me as much as they can and I appreciate this.

“The football is different in England. But I want to say it is also at a very high level in China. Everybody is playing a lot, the games are so close together and we are not playing in our regular stadium this season, so hopefully in the future we can experience that.”

2020 AFC Champions League (East): Preview

The 30-year-old is confident he has made the right move with his switch to China having now seen life in the Chinese Super League up close.

“I think that the Chinese league is growing all the time and the owners of the teams have invested a lot of care into the teams,” he said. “They want the teams to win and this makes the league very competitive and everyone is fighting for success.”

Photos: AFP

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