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Firedup Wanderers boss eyes Guangzhou scalp

Fired-up Wanderers boss eyes Guangzhou scalp

Fired-up Wanderers boss eyes Guangzhou scalp

Coach Tony Popovic is fired up for the “huge challenge” that awaits Western Sydney Wanderers later this month as the A-League Grand Final runner-up takes on defending continental champion Guangzhou Evergrande in the quarterfinal of the AFC Champions League.

Western Sydney became only the second A-League side to reach the last eight after edging out J. League champion Sanfrecce Hiroshima on away goals in May following a 3-3 draw on aggregate in their round-of-16 tie.

And after following in the footsteps of 2008 finalist Adelaide United, which also reached the quarterfinals in 2012, Western Sydney will entertain Marcello Lippi’s Chinese Super League champion on Aug 20 at Parramatta Stadium ahead of the return fixture a week later.

“They have got the resources, they have got the players, they have got the coach and they want to be the best and they proved that last year. It will be a huge challenge coming off a preseason and playing against such a heavyweight,” said Popovic, whose side will not begin the new A-League season until October.

“But on the other hand, that is something you expect when you are amongst the best eight teams in Asia, that you are going to have to play a great side to get through.

“It is a huge challenge but one that we are really looking forward to. I think the club is embracing it and I think our fans will embrace it as well.

“We showed against the Japanese champions that we can handle pressure against a top opponent and this is another one. We expected it to be tough regardless of whom we got and we have got the very best and we want to see how we match up against them.”

Shinji Ono played a starring role in the round-of-16 success, but the former Japan international, along with Michael Beauchamp, Youssouf Hersi, Jerome Polenz, Adam D’Apuzzo, Jerrad Tyson, Aaron Mooy, Tahj Minniecon, Dean Heffernan and Josh Barresi, departed Western Sydney at the end of the season.

The arrivals of defender Brendan Hamill, Brazilian playmaker Vitor Saba and goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis have boosted Popovic’s ranks, although Western Sydney will be without Australia centerback Matthew Spiranovic for at least the quarterfinals due to an ankle injury.

Striker Tomi Juric, though, is set to be fit, having quickly recovered from a thigh injury picked up at the start of preseason training.

“While players missing or having left the club won’t affect me personally within the team it may. But I’m pretty sure the players who’ve come in will do a good job,” said 23-year-old Australia international Juric.

“With a few new players, everyone will have to work hard on gelling together – something we need to focus on – and prepare as well as we can to get firstly a good result at home and then to confirm our spot in the next round in the second leg.”

Western Sydney boasts an impressive home record in the AFC Champions League this season having beaten Japanese duo Hiroshima and Kawasaki Frontale as well as China’s Guizhou Renhe at Parramatta Stadium.

But unlike in the round of 16 against Hiroshima, Western Sydney must make the trip to Guangzhou’s Tianhe Sport Center Stadium for the second leg on Aug 27.

“It’s a little difficult because we have the home leg first and then we have to go to China for the final leg. So it’s not going to be in front of our home fans as it was in our last game against Sanfrecce Hiroshima,” said Juric.

“The role of home crowd is massive; they are our 12th man.

“We’re going to need their help as I’m pretty sure that Guangzhou are going to come out firing and, as champions last year, looking to go through to the next round and prove a point to show why they won it last year.

“With the help of the crowd, though, I’m confident we can pull off a positive result which will help us in the second leg in China.”


Striker Tomi Juric was Western Sydney Wanderers’ highest scorer during the 2013-14 season with nine goals in all competitions. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 08/06/2014 page23)

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