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ACL Preview: Guangzhou Evergrande vs Daegu FC

ACL Preview: Guangzhou Evergrande vs Daegu FC AFC Champions League Group F Matchday Six 6
With Sanfrecce Hiroshima having already secured a spot in last 16, second placed Daegu FC and third place Guangzhou Evergrande will go head to head in the hunt for the last remaining spot in Group F. As it stands, a draw will send the Korean side into the knockout stages, whereas Evergrande desperately need all three points to advance. K League United's Daegu FC Correspondent Muyeol Jung sat down with Johnathan White from the South China Morning Post Sports Desk to discuss what can be expected from Wednesday's match

Muyeol Jung Asks, Jonathan White Answers

Muyeol Jung: Seven times Chinese Super League Champion Guangzhou Evergrande were winless for last three games in all competitions until they came from behind to beat Wuhan Zall 3-2. What do you think the problems are?

Jonathan White: The club is not helping itself. They decided to limit the number of foreigners they would use in the league to two rather than three. That was fine until Talisca got injured and he was most sorely missed against Beijing Guoan at the start of that three-game winless run. Guoan are the best team in the league this season but it was a game that could have gone the other way. The Sanfrecce game featured Ty Browning and Park Jisoo in the centre of defence, which is not ideal when they are not playing together every week and something you expect that a former central defender in Cannavaro would know.

Also, Evergrande have not exactly been impressing away in the AFC Champions League over the last few seasons anyway so the loss was not exactly unexpected. As for the Jiangsu game, arguably the late equaliser showed a bit of fight after going behind. In some ways it seems that this run and this season so far is the inevitable end of an era but that is exacerbated by Cannavaro's seeming shortcomings as a coach and the club's willingness to hamstring itself.

MJ: Talisca, sidelined due to injury, has returned to starting XI in a 3-2 win over Wuhan Zall, and scored one - this is a huge boost for Evergrande. How’s the Brazilian form?

JW: He's the best player in the league, for me, and he started this season where he left off last season. He's scored plenty of times already - seven in eight in the CSL and four in four in the Champions League, and is capable of creating something out of nothing. Plus, with his ability shooting from distance it's not really something teams can easily prevent.

(UPDATE) In press conference before the match day, Guangzhou Evergrander Manager Fabio Cannavaro stated that Talisca is unavailable for selection due to injury.

MJ: For Guangzhou Evergrande, this is a must win game to advance to the knock out stages, while a draw will send Daegu through. Tactically, how do you think the Chinese side come to compared to the first meeting with Daegu?

JW: They have to attack from the off. Anything else would risk going out. I'd imagine it starts with a patient build up but if they are 0-0 with 20 minutes left, or find themselves behind at some point, then it's going to be more direct. They have played some thrillers in recent years, notably against Shanghai SIPG, and there's a chance that they might just try to outscore Daegu.

MJ: Fabio Cannavaro’s side have four days of recovery and preparation after Friday's league game, while Andre’s side have only two days to prepare for the game after Sunday league game. How do you envisage it to play out on Wednesday night?

JW: Evergrande have been here before. This is nothing new for their players, many of whom have won this tournament along with the CSL title on numerous occasions. That experience might be more of an advantage than the extra rest days. I'm sure there will be several in the backroom staff crossing their fingers that the Champions League new boys are overawed by the occasion and the atmosphere at Tianhe Stadium.

MJ: Predicted score?

JW: Tough one. I'll be positive for China's wealthy former champions - Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 Daegu FC

Jonathan White Asks, Muyeol Jung Answers

Jonathan White: Daegu only need a draw; will they play for that or go for the win?

Muyeol Jung: The situation looks very favourable to Daegu as the Korean side need just a draw to get through to the knockout stage. However, they genuinely need to take lessons from Barcelona’s exit in the UEFA Champions League in the second leg of Semi-Finals - complacency is dangerous.

Ultimately, I think that they will play for the win, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will push strong from the beginning. As usual, they will likely sit deep with an emphasis on counterattack.

JW: Do you see them challenging for the K League title - they are four points off the top after 12 games - and is that the priority for the season?

MJ: I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical when the club chairman Cho Kwangrae promised to the public that he would make Daegu FC compete for the K League title within three years when Daegu just got a promotion to K League 1 at the end of 2016, but I am now more convinced that this could be feasible at the end of season as many K League fans have witnessed so far.

Nevertheless, realistically, they are more focused on getting a spot for ACL in next season, rather than winning the title considering a gap in squad quality and experience compared to Ulsan and Jeonbuk. Also, after Daegu City and the club realised that how the citizen club can contribute to revitalising local economy, tourism and city branding through the continental competition, securing ACL spot is essentially prioritised in justification for future financial back up to the club.

JW: How would getting out of the group stage be greeted by the fans and the city? Is there more interest in the team nowadays?

MJ: It will be remembered as a massive success not only in the club’s history, but also in many Daegu citizens' minds forever if Daegu advance to the knockout stages in what has been their first appearance to the competition. With a lot of hype and big expectations moving forwards, the club will hold an ACL watch party on Wednesday evening in DGB Daegu Bank Park for those who are not able to travel to Guangzhou. If Daegu get the result, the stadium will turn to a huge party hall to celebrate the new history made.

JW: Who can be their heroes on Wednesday?

MJ: As many football fans have witnessed already, Daegu FC are not the team played and led by a couple of star players, but the team as a unit. Every player on and off the pitch should be mentally and physically ready for this tie.

Nevertheless, If I am asked, I would say that Edgar could be the hero on Wednesday night because of his experiences as the majority of Daegu players have never experienced playing in a big crowd and on a big stage. The forward has played at Tinahe Stadium with Thai side Buriram United in 2018 when he found the equaliser in a 1-1 draw, not to mention he is the top scorer in the team with four gpals in ACL.

JW: How do you see the game going?

MJ: On Wednesday night, Daegu FC will line up with the strongest side as expected and will take a defensive approach with an emphasis of counterattacking. If Daegu manage to remain goalless at half time, then the Sky Blues may be able to become much bolder attacking wise and could look to take advantage of a high Guangzhou back line.

JW: Predicted score?

MJ: Guangzhou Evergrande 1-1 Daegu FC

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