Opinion

Opposition woes leaves Perth with great chance of Asian glory

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Perth Glory may be sending plenty of youngsters to Qatar for the resumption of the AFC Champions League stage but there is a real opportunity for the Asian debutants to get out of their group especially if they can kick off with a win against injury-riddled Shanghai Shenhua on Wednesday.

All three opponents of the Australian team are facing challenges and that can only be good news.

After losing their only game so far at FC Tokyo all the way back in February, Perth need a positive start that could serve as a springboard for a successful campaign.

The exhausted Chinese Super League team, who wrapped up a seventh place finish in the Chinese Super League on Tuesday, are having to deal with an injury crisis so severe that the substitute bench in the final game of the season against Hebei was half-empty.

With as many as 11 first team squad members struggling with injury, the Chinese Football Association has allowed Shanghai to recall five players that had been sent on loan to other clubs ahead of time.

Defenders Zhi Chenjie and Zhao Mingjian as well as forward Yang Xu will not make the trip to Qatar.

Star winger Cao Yunding will but is likely to miss the first Perth game at least.

Others major players such as Feng Xiaoting, Zeng Cheng and captain Giovanni Moreno face a race against time to be fit for the first Australian test.

Goalkeeper Zeng Cheng has also been injured with replacement Ma Zhen not impressing between the sticks.

There are also rumours in China that Shenhua’s former AC Milan and Roma star Stephan El Shaarawy is unsettled and wants to return to Italy.

Shanghai coach Choi Kang-hee, who led Jeonbuk Motors to the 2006 and 2016 continental titles, knows that his team faces a major test .

“We approach every game with the intention of winning but we have a lot of work to do in the next few days,” said Choi, who has coached more games in the AFC Champions League than anyone else.

“Injuries will have an impact on our team and there are some players who can’t play 90 minutes at the moment but we will work hard and take each game seriously with the aim of finishing as high as possible.”

“We always respect Australian opposition but we want to start with a win and get three points,”

Shanghai have yet to play a single game in the AFC Champions League so far and face six matches in 15 days in Qatar, all coming after the end of a tiring Chinese Super League season on Tuesday.

With that in mind, the club has chartered a jet that will take them directly to Doha on Sunday.

Other good news for Perth is that South Korean opponents Ulsan Horangi have also just finished a gruelling season and four of their stars will arrive in Qatar late as they are on international duty.

Not only that, FC Tokyo are having to split their squad as they are still fighting desperately to hang on to third place in the J.League and book a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League.