Preview: Beijing Guoan v Melbourne Victory
Melbourne kicks off its 2010 Asian Champions League in China against local powerhouse Beijing Guoan, looking to qualify from the group stages of the continental tournament for the first time.
Date: Tuesday February 23 Kick-off (AEST): 7:30pm AEST (10:30pm local) Venue: Beijing Workers Stadium TV coverage: Fox Sports 1 (Live)
Previous ACL appearances:: Beijing Guoan: 2009: ACL Group Stage 2008: ACL Group Stage 1998: Asian Cup Winners Cup - Third Round 1997: Asian Cup Winners Cup - Third Place
Melbourne Victory: 2008: ACL Group Stage
Analysis: Melbourne kicks off its 2010 Asian Champions League in China against local powerhouse Beijing Guoan, looking to qualify from the group stages of the continental tournament for the first time.
There are certainly some parallels between these two teams, which attract the largest crowds of any team in their respective leagues to their home matches. Both tasted domestic success in 2009 with Melbourne winning the Hyundai A-League, while Beijing prevailed in a tight struggle to claim just its second CSL title.
There is also a strong Australian influence in the Beijing team, which boasts two Aussies, brothers Ryan and Joel Griffiths. Joel Griffiths if of course the 2008 Johnny Warren Medallist and played a major role in the Newcastle's success in the Grand Final of that year. He joined his brother in China last year after a protracted dispute with the Jets over his transfer. The Griffiths brothers scored 16 goals between them last year to be equal top goal scorers for their club.
Beijing is yet to begin its domestic season and comes into the match with several new names. It has a new Brazilian, Valdo, who scored 13 goals for Hangzhou Lucheng last season, as well as a Scotsman in Maurice Ross, who arrives from Aberdeen. They also have experienced Bosnian defender Darko Matic, who played 29 matches last season.
The club has recruited heavily locally picking up Wang Xiaolong and Wu Hao from Shandong Luneng and Xu Liang, who brings plenty of experience from Guangzhou. Interestingly most of their recruits are defenders or midfielders.
Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick has already said he expects Beijing to play a tight accountable style of game, with very little space around the ball. This is reflected in their results in the CSL last season, where they had 12 draws in 20 matches, while their record the ACL backs that up with just nine goals scored in six matches they competed in.
The best way for Melbourne to counteract Beijing's tight defensive set-up will be through long passing and use of the speed of their attacking midfielders to create chances. Merrick and captain Kevin Muscat have spoken of the importance of set-pieces and that makes Carlos Hernandez and Nik Mrdja their two most important players in attack.
Free kicks and corners are generally the source of the majority of goals in Champions League matches and Hernandez's free kicks and Mrdja's height and strength at corners will be where Melbourne creates most of its chances. Beijing boasts an international goalkeeper in Yang Zhi, who will be hard to get past.
Up the other end, the Melbourne defensive trio of Muscat, Rody Vargas and Adrian Leijer will be kept busy by the Griffiths brothers as well as possible the new Brazilian player. However, Melbourne will have the fitness edge having just reached the business end of its Hyundai A-League campaign, while the start of the CSL season is still a few weeks away.
Beijing Guoan: 1. Zhang Sipeng, 2. Lang Zheng, 3. Wu Hao, 4. Zhou Ting, 5. Darko Matic, 6. Xu Liang, 7. Wang Changqing, 8. Yang Hao, 9. Du Wenhui, 10. Valdo, 11. Yan Xiangchuang, 12. Hou Sen, 13. Xu Yunlong (captain), 15. Tao Wei, 16. Huang Bowen, 17. Wang Ke, 18. Lu Jiang , 19. Wang Xiaolong, 20. Zhang Xinxin , 21. Yao Shuang, 22. Yang Zhi, 23. Ryan Griffiths, 24. Yang Yun, 25. Xue Fei, 26. Wang Hao, 28. Zhu Yifan, 29. Joel Griffiths, 30. Zhang Yonghai (vice captain), 31. Hu Qiling, 32. Yu Yang, 33. Maurice Ross
Melbourne Victory: 1. Mitchell Langerak , 2. Kevin Muscat (Captain), 3. Mate Dugandzic, 5. Surat Sukha, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Matthew Kemp, 8. Grant Brebner, 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Marvin Angulo, 12. Rodrigo Vargas, 14. Billy Celeski, 15. Tom Pondeljak, 16. Carlos Hernandez, 17. Matthew Foschini, 19. Evan Berger , 20. Glen Moss, 21. Robbie Kruse, 22. Nick Ward, 23. Adrian Leijer, 24. Luke Pilkington, 25. Aziz Behich, 26. Petar Franjic, 27. Stephen Hatzikostas, 28. Diogo Ferreira, 29. Nik Mrdja, 30. Sebastian Mattei