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Ports Route to ACL Knockout Qualification

There was a spell last night with BG Pathum a goal down to Viettel, added to Ratchaburi’s hard faught 0-0 draw with Korean’s Pohang Steelers and Chiangrai’s back to back 1-1 draws with J League’s Gamba Osaka, that the recent results of the three other Thai teams looked like getting Port chances of reaching the knock out stages of the ACL champions league back into a favourable position. As it would turn out the Thai champions would show their superior class in the second half and secure a 3-1 win over the Vietnamese champions. Great for them and Thai football but what does it mean for Ports chances?

 

Why it Matters? 

With 5 groups and 8 spots in the knock out stage for each half of the AFC Champions league, not every 2nd place team advances, think of it as the Euros evil twin. As such only the three best  second places teams go though. With the Western half of the competition having completed their group stage, we can see that 10 points was enough to advance (although Al-Sadd were left erm sadd as they failed to advance despite achieving 10 points and equal goal difference with Al- Hilal who had scored more goals and advance in hilal-rious fashion).

If Port win their remaining two fixtures v Kitchee and Guangzhou they can achieve 10 points, will it be enough? The West side featured a lot more draws than the East has so far, finishing with 18 draws from the 60 games (30%) played while the East has seen just 6 from 42 games (14.28%), so plenty more points taken out of the equation. Conversely there were less teams at the bottom of the Western groups who would fail to take points off the teams at the top. Its perhaps better to look at each group in the East and try and second guess what will happen. No easy task as those at the top have shown themselves happy to rotate their squads and with qualification assured its only more likely that some decide to give lesser squad members a run out.

 

Group F 

With 4 games played Ulsan top the group already on 12 points that will surely see them advance. While second place BG have 9 points with fixtures against the Korean serial ACL participants and K League bridesmaids, along with a very winnable fixture with Filipino runners up Kaya, that should see them to 12 points and advancement regardless of the outcome when the groups top two meet on Sunday.

 

 

Group G  

One of the groups with a second place team Port can hope to surpass. There’s one game left to play, Nagoya have 15 points and have advanced to the knock outs, second place Pohang Steelers have 10 points and a goal difference of +4 going into a final game v Nagoya tomorrow. Nagoya’s Yuki Soma is part of the Japanese Olympic squad and may have left to quarantine and maximise his involvement in build up games for that squad, for the rest of the team there is no fixture for 10 days, will they rotate and what will their level of motivation be? We have to hope for a Nagoya win and if they were to throw in a few goals to help close the Koreans advantage of six in goal difference over Port that would be great. A result for Pohang and they can’t be surpassed.

 

 

Group H 

With 4 games played this group remains wide open. Jeonbuk are top with 10 points, with Gamba Osaka second on 6 and Chiangrai third on 5. The second and third place teams have Tampines Rovers of Singapour to play and should collect wins. While the remaining fixtures see Jeonbuk play Chiangrai then Gamba in the last round of games. This is a poorly performing Gamba side, who have flopped in this seasons J league, compared to preseason expectations and find themselves 18th, just one place above relegation, although they have played less games than their rivals due to games cancelled due to covid cases in the squad earlier in the season and their ACL participation. Chiangrai as ever have been hard to beat and were the better team by some distance v Gamba last time out. Its not beyond the realms of possibility they can win both their remaining games to finish on 11 points. However Jeonbuk will be favourites to win both their remaining games, a situation to Ports advantage as should that happen the second place team from this group is almost certain to be eliminated.

 

Group I 

How do you stop one team out of their depth being cut a drift at the bottom of a group? Simple, have two teams well below the normal standard of ACL group stage participants, mix in the best team in the region in Kawasaki and in Daegu a decent Korean team and you have nothing to see here relative to the qualification situation.  The top two are yet to concede to United City or Beijing Guoan, whilst averaging more than 6 goals per game against them. There’s more chance of Muangthong making next years ACL than top two not collecting 12 points and an insurmountable goal difference from their games v the bottom two and both advancing (regardless of the result when they meet on Thursday).

 

Group J

Our group, we need to win both our remaining fixtures starting today against Kitchee and see a swing of 6 goals v Pohang on goal difference.

The final round of games see us face Guangzhou and Kitchee face Cerezo Osaka. The possibility of Kitchee being beaten today and then taking 3 points from a Cerezo team of squad players, fading pops stars, kit men and the bus driver* would see us consigned to 3rd place. Even a draw could be enough for the team from Hong Kong as the final standings are determined by head to head record and then head to head goal difference. So a single goal win for Port today, would see Kitchee finish second with a draw against Cerezo. Quite simply we need two big wins and to hope for a few results to go our way.

*some of these people aren’t registered and can’t play.

Japaneasy: Port FC 3-0 Cerezo Osaka (Leo Cup Quarter-Final)

 

 

Port’s Leo Cup campaign continued impressively with a comfortable win over J-League side Cerezo Osaka’s U23s on Sunday night. Port’s form is coming to the boil nicely and they never looked troubled by a feisty and well-organised but limited Japanese side.

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