Shandong Taishan vs Yokohama F. Marinos
Luneng Big Stadium forms the backdrop for a mouth-watering AFC Champions League showdown between Shandong Taishan and Yokohama F. Marinos.
Shandong Taishan lived up to their tag as heavy pre-match favorites in their opening Group G fixture, trouncing continental minnows Kaya 3-1 on the road, with all four goals arriving beyond the 60th minute. That win forms part of the Chinese powerhouse’s superb nine-match unbeaten streak across all competitions (W7, D2 – 90 minutes only), a run stretching back to a 1-0 home loss to Chengdu Rongcheng in early August. While it’s been 18 years since Shandong last met Yokohama in continental action, they can draw further confidence from winning both previous Champions League H2Hs. ‘Taishan Dui’ seem likely to maintain their 100% record against the Japanese side after winning their last four home games by an aggregate score of 11-3.
On the other hand, visiting Yokohama F. Marinos found themselves on the receiving end of a 2-0 scoreline in last weekend’s J1 League top-table six-pointer against Vissel Kobe, capitulating twice before halftime. That defeat saw the reigning Japanese champions fall four points behind table-topping Kobe, so this continental travel could be a welcoming distraction. But Kevin Muscat’s in-trouble side cannot afford another upset after slumping to a shock 4-2 home defeat to Incheon United in their opening Champions League fixture. That could prove easier said than done despite beating Kashima Antlers 2-1 on their most recent road trip. Before that narrow success, Yokohama had been winless on five straight travels across all competitions (D2, L3).