Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) continue their debut campaign in the AFC Champions League when they host Chinese Super League’s Shandong Luneng at Larkin on Wednesday.
JDT who have only one point from three matches in the group stages of the ACL 2019, despite putting up brave displays in all three fixtures, are in dire need of points and will need a win to keep their hopes of making it to the knockout stages alive.
So, we take a look at the 5 key facts around the Group E encounter…
1) Time for JDT to create more history?
Despite running all three of their opponents — defending champions Kashima Antlers, K League outfit Gyeongnam FC and Shandong — close, the Southern Tigers only have one point to show for it which came in a 1-1 draw against the South Koreans at Larkin.
Johor are the first Malaysian club to compete in the group stages of the AFC Champions League and also the first to grab a point in the continental championship. But the question now will be whether they can become the first Malaysia Super League club to record a victory in Asia’s biggest club football competition!
2) But Pelle stands in Johor’s way!
AFC Champions League 2019: Shandong Luneng 2-0 Johor Darul Ta’zim (Graziano Pelle 39′)
In order to nick something out of this game, JDT will have to keep one man in particular quiet for the full 90 minutes. It’s easier said than done when that man is Shandong striker Graziano Pelle.
The former Southampton man is the leading goalscorer in the AFC Champions League this season with five goals and has averaged a goal every 54 minutes in the tournament so far. It will take something special from the JDT defence to stop the Italian at Larkin on Wednesday.
3) Shandong do not lose often in the ACL
A win might be on the agenda for JDT on Matchday 4, but Shandong Luneng do not give up matches that easily in the ACL.
In fact, the Chinese club have only lost one of their last 10 games in the Champions League winning two and drawing seven of them!
4) There’s some good news for the Malaysians, though!
Win-or-Bust – Can Johor Darul Ta’zim beat Shandong Luneng to keep their AFC Champions League hopes alive?
But, Shandong’s form away from home isn’t that impressive.
They have failed to win in their last five games playing away from home in the ACL drawing four and suffering defeat in one. This is also their longest-ever run without victory away from home in the ACL and JDT will want to make sure that run does not come to an end at Johor Bahru on Wednesday.
5) More statistical good omens for JDT!
AFC Champions League 2019: Shandong Luneng 2-1 JDT (Safawi Rasid 59′)
It is safe to say that Shandong’s defence isn’t impenetrable. And JDT have themselves proven just that on Matchday 3 when Safawi Rasid found the top corner with an incredible strike from distance in the 2-1 defeat in China.
That was the seventh successive game that Shandong have failed to keep a clean sheet in the ACL! It is also interesting to note that they had managed four clean sheets in their five games prior to this in the competition.
(Facts via OPTA)