Insider's View: Shanghai Shenhua

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All eyes will be on Carlos Tevez in his competitive debut but another striker could be even more important against Brisbane Roar

A classic Brisbane Roar late-show could be on the cards again in Wednesday night's AFC Champions League (ACL) play-off, with Shanghai Shenhua having a reputation for second-half collapses.

Roar flew to China on Sunday and face a big challenge to overcome a Shenhua side that will be spearheaded by Carlos Tevez and Obafemi Martins.

GFX Carlos Tevez

But according to Zhicheng Hu, Goal's chief editor in China, the decision by Shenhua coach Gus Poyet to leave Fredy Guarin out of his ACL squad for this match could backfire on the Chinese Super League (CSL) club.

Before each ACL match involving an A-League club, Goal will provide an 'Insider's View' on the opposition team, featuring a journalist from that club's home country.

The Big Issue

Shenhua's clash with Brisbane at Hongkou Football Stadium on Wednesday will be the Chinese outfit's first appearance in the ACL since 2011, with the proud club - one of just four to have played every season of the CSL - having struggled in recent years.

That changed last season, however, as Gregorio Manzano led Shenhua to a fourth-placed finish in the CSL to earn a spot in this week's ACL qualifying play-offs.

Manzano left Shenhua after the 2016 season and has been replaced by former Chelsea midfielder Poyet, and Hu can't understand one of the Uruguayan's early decisions to leave Guarin out of his squad to play Roar.

With only four foreign players - including one from another Asian Football Confederation nation - allowed in ACL squads, Poyet has picked Tevez, Martins, Colombian attacking midfielder Giovanni Moreno and South Korean defender Kim Kee-hee.

Tevez scores first Shenhua goal

"It was quite a surprising move by Poyet because Guarin is a canny user of the ball and is particularly dynamic when it comes to winning it back," Hu said.

"Without Guarin's sweeping and screening in central midfield, Shanghai Shenhua's defensive weakness and mental fragility will be brutally exposed."

Guarin played 26 CSL matches last season, scoring four goals and setting up another six.

The Danger Man

While the pre-match focus will undoubtedly be on Tevez, who is set to make his competitive Shenhua debut against Brisbane, Hu reckons the visitors need to be equally as wary of the Argentine's strike partner.

GFX Obafemi Martins

Martins, 32, joined Shenhua last year and developed an impressive partnership with Demba Ba, who is on loan at Besiktas until the end of the 2016-17 Turkish Super Lig season as he continues his recover from a broken leg.

"In his debut season, the prolific Nigerian [Martins] netted 15 goals and four assists in 31 games for Shanghai Shenhua, displaying an enviable efficiency in front of goal," Hu said.

"With his elite finishing skills he has proved to be a constant headache for opposing sides.

"If Tevez runs aground in a packed defence, the underrated Martins will have the opportunity to steal the limelight again."

Martins has scored six times in Shenhua's past three friendlies, including a brace versus Sydney United 58 last week.

How could Brisbane Roar hurt Shanghai Shenhua?

A-League fans have become used to the sight of Roar players wheeling away in celebration late in matches over the past few years.

All three of Brisbane's grand final triumphs have involved late winning goals, while recent victories over Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers have seen Jamie Maclaren and Brett Holman clinch three points with goals in the closing stages.

Roar have scored 26 per cent of their goals in the final 15 minutes of matches this season and their ability to finish strongly could pay dividends in Shanghai.

Brisbane Roar 6 Global FC 0

"For the last few years in the CSL, there was always a huge physical drop for Shanghai Shenhua in the second half, with the players looking completely lethargic," Hu said.

If Brisbane can stay in the contest by half-time, their superior match fitness could be the difference on Wednesday night.

Shanghai Shenhua's form

Poyet's side haven't conceded in their past three friendlies, overcoming Japanese third-tier club YSCC Yokohama 5-0, K League outfit Sangju Sangmu 1-0 and Sydney United 3-0.

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Hu believes there is a "feel-good mood" around the squad at present but the ACL play-off is a big moment for the club.

The winner of Shenhua versus Roar will advance to Group E of the 2017 ACL alongside Kashima Antlers, Muangthong United and the winner of Ulsan versus Kitchee.

 

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