ACL preview: Melbourne Victory v Shanghai SIPG

Melbourne Victory will hope to end their 2018 AFC Champions League campaign on a high when they take on Chinese Super League heavyweights Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday night from 8pm AEST on Fox Sports 505.

Victory can’t qualify for the knockout stage following their loss to Ulsan Hyundai a fortnight ago but have shown excellent form in the ACL in front of their home fans.

The visitors have already booked their spot in the last 16 but won’t take their foot off the gas against Victory, especially as they are yet to lose a competitive match in 2018.

With both sides loving to play open attacking football, it should be a thrilling 90 minutes at AAMI Park.

SQUAD NEWS

Victory boss Kevin Muscat is set to ring the changes and give a few fringe players a shot with the club looking ahead to Sunday’s Elimination Final against Adelaide United.

Fan favourite Kenny Athiu is set to start up front, while youngsters Josh Hope and Christian Theoharous, as well as backup keeper Matt Acton, are all likely to start.

Fellow youngsters Cameron McGilp and Pierce Waring are also likely to see plenty of game-time as veterans like Besart Berisha, Carl Valeri and Leroy George are rested for Sunday.

Kenny Athiu
Kenny Athiu is set to start against Shanghai SIPG.

WHAT THEY SAID (defender Rhys Williams)

“It's what football is all about, playing these big names.
"All credit to them [SIPG] coming over when they've won the group. It's good for our boys.
"My history will tell you that I've missed a lot of football. I don't like missing games at all ... to miss two games in a row it really hurt me.

SHANGHAI SIPG FORM

The Chinese Super League giants are still unbeaten across all competitions in 2018.

SIPG have won all six matches in the CSL to sit atop the ladder, including a 2-0 win over Hebei Fortune on weekend.

Their performances in the ACL have been just impressive, securing their spot in the last 16 with two games to spare.

While they drew with Kawasaki Frontale at home in their last group match, SIPG did crush Victory 4-1 when they played in China on Match Day 2.

SHANGHAI SIPG’S KEY PLAYERS

Shanghai's imports need little introduction with Brazilian trio of Elkeson, Hulk and Oscar spearheading their attacking arsenal.

While Oscar won’t feature on Wednesday night, the other two will be the ones Victory must stop if they are to prevail.

Powerful-striker Hulk joined SIPG from Russian club Zenit St Petersburg in 2016 in another big-money move and is currently the club's captain.

He has also featured for Portuguese powerhouse Porto and has represented Brazil on 47 occasions.

Elkeson is a star of the ACL, winning two Champions League titles and three Chinese Super League titles with Guangzhou Evergrande before making the move to Shanghai in 2016.

And Chinese stalwart Wu Lei is another to keep an eye on. The pacy winger has gone on to make over 300 appearances for the Red Eagles, while he’s also turned out for the Chinese national team on 48 occasions.