|Nguyễn Quang Hải of Hà Nội FC is one of the players to watch at the play-off match today. — Photo webthethao.vn|
Hà Nội — Hà Nội FC need to be at their very best to progress in the AFC Champions League, according to coach Chu Đình Nghiêm.
The V.League champions face Shandong Luneng of China in the play-off match today at Jinan Olympic Sports Centre in Jinan.
Nghiêm said although Shandong Luneng, who finished third at the Chinese Super League, was a strong team, in football everything could happen.
"I have watched their matches and they were really strong with four league titles and regular Champions League experience. But until the match is played, who knows what will happen?" he said.
Hà Nội FC arrived in Jinan on Monday to prepare for the match. Vietnamese Nigierian striker Hoàng Vũ Samson is suspended. Samson scored two goals in Hà Nội’s 2-0 win to take the national Super Cup trophy on Saturday.
Veteran midfielder Phạm Thành Lương is not available as he failed to meet visa requirements on time. Newcomer Brandon Marquee McDonald is absent for the same reason.
This is Shandong’s ninth outing in the tournament, but their first since 2016 when they were beaten by FC Seoul in the quarter-finals.
The side warmed up for the match by winning the Lunar New Year Cup pre-season tournament in Hong Kong two weeks ago.
Shandong have recently welcomed former Manchester United player Marouane Fellaini but he will miss the game through injury.
However they still have former Italian striker Graziano Pelle, who played for Southampton, and former Brazilian team defender Gil together with famed Chinese Hao Junmin, Jin Jingdao and Liu Yang ready for the game.
Coach Li Xiaopeng said his assistants watched match between Hà Nội and Bangkok United and knew the team was strong. Players were small in size but skillful ones who worked well in narrow space, he said. But he was still confident of a victory.
The match will begin at 2.30pm Hà Nội time and the Việt Nam Television will broadcast it live on VTV6 channel. — VNS