South China seeking Juventus’ help to overcome JDT

After falling to the Malaysian giants in the AFC Cup quarter-finals last year, South China hope to avoid the same fate this time... 

South China plan to enlist the help of European giants Juventus to overcome Johor Darul Tazim (JDT) in the quarter-final of the 2016 AFC Cup in September.

The Hong Kong team acknowledged the tournament's defending champions are the favourites to progress to the last four but coach Jose Ricardo Rambo believes that a match with Juventus can help South China make a difference.

With the Hong Kong club out of season until after the quarter-final clash, their glamorous home game with the Italian powerhouse on July 30, could make a real difference.

“We have a good game to prepare for this and that is against Juventus. We believe this can help us a lot,'” Rambo told FourFourTwo. 'Not only is the game against some of the best players in the world it will give our players a real boost if we can get a good result.”

JDT among the most in-form teams in Asia currently. Photo: JDT

“After that we will prepare three or four very good friendlies against strong teams to help us get ready.”

Even with some Italian preparation, Rambo, who was formerly assistant coach at the club before taking the top job, knows that it will be a tough task.

“It is a difficult draw for us as they are in really good shape now and are defending champions and one of the strongest teams in Asia at the moment. In the group stage, they were excellent and came through without any problems.”

He is happy to hand the tag of favourites to the opposition. “We will give them the name 'favourites' for the results they get this year and last year and for the fact that they are the champions. It is no problem to say they are the favourites. But we will work hard and will not give up just because we are playing against a strong team. This gives us more motivation."

JDT will be wise not to underestimate their opponents. In the second round, Hong Kong went to the Philippines and knocked out Ceres La Salle, the team who eliminated Malaysian giants Selangor in the group stage.

"We don't feel pressure but even if we did, if you see our last three or four games in this tournament, we were under pressure and we did well.”

“But we know that we have to prepare for this as well as we can, especially for the home game which is first, if we are going to go through to the next stage.”

There is also the fact that the two teams met at the same stage in last year's edition. The first leg ended 1-1 with the Malaysians, under Mario Gomez who had left South China in April to take the JDT job, winning the return match at Hong Kong 3-1.

South China exited the quarter-finals last year after facing JDT. Photo: South China

“Last year we were knocked out by them in the latter stages but we are hoping that this will be a good event for us and a different outcome. It gives us extra motivation to show how far we have come. We also hope that the people of Hong Kong will come out and support us for what is a very big game.”

One potential problem for JDT is that the Hong Kong season finished last month. As a result, there could be some new faces for September's clash which will come as the new season is starting.

“We are looking for some new players, losing some players but we are focused more on looking at getting some more attacking players in. We hope to be a stronger team in September than we are at the moment. We will see what we have.”

“I have been the coach for a few months now and the club has been putting a lot of effort into the AFC Cup. This is a big step for us and we can go through to the next stage.

"We have to prepare well though and we have to start doing that now. If we can bring everything together in the right way and all put together then we can get a good result.”

The quarter-finals draw for the 2016 Asian Champions League also took place in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. In the western half of the draw Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates were paired with Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan while Qatar's Al Jaish meet the UAE's second representative in Al Nasr.

The eastern half of the draw saw two Korea vs China ties. FC Seoul renew acquaintance from the group stage with Shandong Luneng while Shanghai SIPG take on Jeonbuk Motors.

The first legs will be held on August 23 and 24 with the return matches taking place in September.