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A do-or-die clash for Shenzhen in AFC Champions League
Updated: 2005-05-24 23:58

Shenzhen Jianlibao will have to beat Suwon Bluewings on Wednesday in their final Group E match of the AFC Champions League to vindicate the legitimacy in sacking coach Chi Shangbin.

Following a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Japan's Jubilo Iwata on May 11, Shenzhen trailed the K-League champion by three points and needs a victory on Wednesday to progress to the last eight of Asia' s top club competition.

The loss in Japan a fortnight ago turned out to be Chi's penultimate match in charge. The 55-year-old was fired last week after his team lost 3-1 at home to Liaoning, stretching their winless start to the domestic season to nine games.

Discord between Chi and the players, which resulted in Chi's benching of several key players including skipper Li Yi and Li Weifeng, was a major factor in the team's disastrous start to this season.

Caretaker coach Guo Ruilong has tried to restore the team's morale and he enjoyed a good start last weekend as a late goal by Zhou Ting gave Shenzhen a 1-0 win over Shenyang Ginde.

But the 2004 China Super League champion faces an uphill task when playing Suwon on Wednesday, with key midfielder Chen Yongqiang suspended after picking up his second yellow card in the Jubilo game and striker Djima Oyawole sidelined after pulling a thigh muscle against Shenyang.

"A lot of our key players are not in their best form and maintaining our fitness has been a real problem. But our win against Shenyang shows that the team is making progress and we are confident of doing the job well," said Guo.

"The atmosphere within the team is also improving. We have said what has to be said and now is the time to prepare for our forthcoming match."

In what a good news to Shenzhen, Cha Bum-keun's squad has also been crippled with injuries and suspensions.

Brazilian striker Nadson sits out the second game of his two- match suspension following his red card in the 2-1 win against Jubilo Iwata last month, and injuries ruled out South Korea international midfielders Kim Nam-il, Song Chong-gug and veteran defender Choi Sung-yong.

While youngsters Hwang Kyu-hwan and Shin Young-rok remain on national duty with the South Korean U-20 side, Suwon has got a nod from the Korea Football Association to allow goalkeeper Lee Woon- jae, defender Kwak Hee-ju and midfielder Kim Do-heon to join a training camp with the national team after Wednesday's match.

As his team only needs a draw to advance, former Shenzhen coach Cha does not intend to curb the attacking instincts of the Suwon team, who has scored 14 goals in five matches.

"We have some problems heading into this match as we have several key players missing, but we will press hard and attack as we intend to win the match," said Cha, who coached the Chinese side from 1999 to 2000.

"We can afford a draw in order to qualify for the last eight, but defensive football is not my football, so we will continue to attack. I believe they are capable of making it," he added.

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