A wall to cliimb for Chonburi in Beijing

AFC Champions League
History repeats. Not always, but sometimes. Like three years ago Chonburi FC cruised to a 3-0 win over South China and hence the side is just one game away of the 20104 AFC Champions League group stage.

Sometimes it seems a smile rarely flashes over Masahiro Wada's face, the new man in charge for Chonburi. But last weekend one could see that he is indeed able to smile. And it took his team 20 minutes to put a first smile on his face with Pipob On-Mo's opening goal against South China from Hong Kong. The man who did not had much chances to prove himself from the beginning of every game last year when coach Haeng was still charge, proved that he is still worth his money. Mostly the lowest player on pitch he found the back of the net with a header. Like only he is known for.

Pipob in the starting eleven was indeed a surprise, taken that he rarely got a chance to shine from the beginning last year, under former coach Haeng. But brining in On-Mo from the start wasn't the only remarkable change in the first serious test of the new season for the Sharks. Anderson dos Santos replaced injured Suttinan Phuk-hom and together with new signing Niweat Siriwong formed the heart of the defense. While Diakte found himself on the bench. It looks like dos Santos ate more pies recently and the additional weight wasn't for his disadvantage. He now appears more brawny and whenever the game allowed it, he was part of the attack. However, it was Thiago Cunha who provided for goal number two (36') and three (54') in front of 7.500 spectators and helped Chonburi to cruise to a deserved 3-0 win.

Overall Chonburi controlled the match, was able to create a lot of chances in a high tempo game and at the end left the pitch as deserved winner. South China's opportunities mostly came off communication errors between the Chonburi defenders and also Sinthaweechai showed a few uncertainties in the box. All this needs to be fixed if one will have a chance to provide for a surprise against Beijing Guoang who is waiting in the next and final round of the 2014 AFC Champions League play-offs.

For the game against Beijing, there are several circumstances with which the Thais will have to fight, and which make a prediction about a possible outcome of the match so difficult.

First there would be the unknown opponent. Up to now, Guoan had to deal with a club from Thailand only once - 2008. At that time the Chinese side had face Krung Thai Bank during the group stage (2-4 and 5-3) and since this year, except for 2011, they always qualified for the AFC elite competition. Hence a lot of international experience waits for Chonburi. Guoang, however, never could make it beyond the round of the last 16. Last year the side failed to overcome eventual finalist and group opponent of Buriram United, FC Seoul.

However, when it comes to the Champions League, Chonburi's opponent could not necessarily shine with a lot of goals over the last years. No matter who was in charge on the sideline, no matter who was standing on the pitch. The scoring ratio never went above 1 goal per game. During last years CSL season, Beijing Guoang scored 54 goals in total (of 30 games) with 29 of them provided by offensive midfielder Zhang Xizhe (11) as winger Joffre Guerrón (11) and striker Peter Utaka (7). The other foreign players in the squad beside the mentioned are Croatian Darko Matić  and new signing Ha Dae-Sung from FC Seoul.

Gregorio Manzano

new coach for Guoang: Manzano
image (CC BY-SA 3.0) Paucabot

Another key factor is the coach. Just as in Thailand the new season has not started yet in China and therefore the host from Beijing are of course also still in the preparation phase. But with a caretaker at the helm. Because Aleksandar Stanojević had to leave the club in January despite finishing the 2013 CSL season in third.

Beginning of this week it became known that Spaniard Gregorio Manzano will be the new manager and will see his debut on the sideline this Saturday against the Sharks. Two China-experienced Spaniards could be put to him aside it is reported. During his career the 57-year-old was in charge of RCD Mallorca several times, with which he won the Spanish Cup in 2003, and Atletico Madrid.

Actually all that reads quite hopeful for the guests from Thailand so far. If there was not another factor coming into play, not in favor of the Thais.
The weather. Temperatures are expected to be around the freezing mark at Workers Stadium. So either Chonburi players step on or they will or freeze to death. Do or die.
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