Respect but not fear. That’s the message from Sydney FC as they prepare to take on Shanghai SIPG and their Brazilian superstars in tonight’s AFC Champions League clash.
The big-spending Chinese club head to Sydney with a massive reputation and three of the best players in Asia in Brazilian trio Oscar, Hulk and Elkeson.
They headline one of the most expensive squads in Asia, underlining the massive challenge facing the Sky Blues.
But Sydney FC Head Coach Steve Corica is not one to let reputations hinder his ambition and is confident his side can pull off an upset to kick-start their 2019 campaign.
“They are all quality players. We all know them and they have a lot of strengths,” Corica said on the eve of the game, which will be played at Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah.
“But we have worked on how we are going to stop them. It’s a good challenge for our boys and its great for them to play against quality players like that.
“We have quality in our team as well and we expect a good performance. We go into the game wanting to win.
“There’s more pressure on them. We’re the underdogs. That’s normal against teams like this, with the budget that they have,” Corica added.
“But our boys are really raring to go, they love the Champions League. We want to pick up three points.
“It’s important that we win at home. We want to move on in this competition and, to do that, we need to win against the big teams.”
The key for Sydney FC is likely to be how well they can nullify the Brazilian trio, with Corica confident the Sky Blues have a plan that can work.
“We want to try and double up as much as possible. Stop them, get bodies around them and don’t give them space which they like,” he said.
“We have a plan and we worked on that. Everyone knows the quality they have and their strengths, we have to stop them shooting from distance as well.
“Our boys have got a lot of heart, we’re physical and we’re going to put up a good performance.”
Sydney FC defender Michael Zullo is likely to mark the formidable Hulk, who has 47 caps for Brazil and played at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“He’s a massive name. There’s a bit of a weight difference between us…maybe the height as well,” said Zullo when asked about matching up against the ex-Porto and Zenit attacker.
“But, look, it’s exciting at this stage of my career. Maybe when I was younger it was daunting coming across good players.
“But at this stage of my career, it’s exciting. It’s another test and something you can look back on.”
Sydney FC have managed a goalless draw against Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai followed by a 1-0 loss to Kawasaki Frontale in their two group games so far.