MELBOURNE Victory coach Kevin Muscat has urged his side not to die wondering against the might of Shanghai SIPG in Tuesday night’s Asian Champions League showdown in China.
Victory is yet to win overseas in 16 ACL attempts and will arrive at Shanghai Stadium as underdogs against a side that made the semi-finals of last year’s Champions League and finished second in the Chinese Super League.
Victory played SIPG in the 2016 ACL, beating them 2-1 at AAMI Park before suffering a 3-1 loss away from home later in the group stage.
But even though the Hulk and Oscar-inspired side is one of the favourites to win this year’s competition, Muscat insists his charges will not take a backwards step.
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“There’s quite a few familiar faces from when we were here last time,” Muscat said.
“They finished second in every competition last year, semi-finals of the Champions League, so they’re a good team.
“But I just want us to have a go and attack.
“We’ll be picking and choosing our times, naturally, but I don’t want to come here and give them all the ascendancy.
“We don’t want to let them have it all their own way and build confidence. When we get the ball, we’ve got to ask questions of them and put doubt in their mind.
“But collectively we’ve got to be switched on defensively.”
Victory drew 3-3 with Ulsan Hyundai in its first group game last week, while Shanghai won 1-0 away to Kawasaki Frontale.
Muscat said he hadn’t made up his mind about his starting line-up, but it is expected to be much the same as last week, with the possibility that fit-again defender Thomas Deng comes into the mix.
While it is summer here, China is still in the depths of winter, with the temperature for the game expected to be as low as 2 degrees.
“But it’s nice, good football weather,” Muscat said. “It hasn’t been too much of an issue.”
Without A-League action to tackle, Victory was able to travel a day earlier than it typically has for Champions League games, which the coach said has helped preparations.
“This is the one occasion in this group stage that we’re afforded that luxury so we took it,” he said.
“We looked pretty sharp (on Sunday) at training and being at the hotel we keep the players pretty busy with recovery and massage. So they’ll be champing at the bit.”