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Victory cautious, but will not be overawed: Muscat

With the $100 million ex-Chelsea man Oscar, the marauding striker Hulk, prolific goalscorer Elkeson and a host of leading Chinese players, Shanghai SIPG loom as one of the most formidable opponents that could be encountered in the Asian Champions League.

But Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat is determined that his side does not simply turn up in Shanghai on Tuesday night and park the bus in a bid to eke some sort of result out of the second game of its 2018 ACL campaign.

Victory coach Kevin Muscat is optimistic his side will test its formidable opponents. Photo: AAP

That doesn't mean he will throw caution to the wind: to do so would in effect be committing football suicide against opposition with such offensive strengths.

It means defending in depth, but smartly and efficiently, and breaking swiftly when the chance arises to counterattack at pace.

''It is a challenge for us as a group, but I want us to ask questions and cause problems for them. I want us to have a go – I don't want them to have everything their own way,'' he said on Monday from Shanghai.

It's a tall order given the quality of the opposition, but Muscat believes Victory has learned enough from its earlier Asian adventures (which include a defeat of Shanghai two years ago at AAMI Park) not to be lambs to the slaughter this time.

His group also took plenty of confidence from its opening ACL game against Ulsan Hyundai last week, where Victory three times fell behind and three times scored to get back on level terms.

It is these sort of matches where players get the chance to test themselves and prove their own quality, he says.

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''We are at the stage where we want to show what we are about too. They can be a formidable team so we will have to be very, very careful about how we go about things,'' Muscat said.

He pinpointed Shanghai's strength as their ability to transition from defence to attack quickly, with Hulk's power, pace, skill and strength, Elkeson's ability to hit the target and Oscar's creativity and technical ability key areas his team had to safeguard against.

He also warned of the dangers posed by Chinese international winger Wu Lei, who was an important part of the Shanghai attack.

''Elkeson's goal ratio [is exceptional] and Hulk holds the ball up and is dangerous from set pieces and free kicks,'' said Muscat, adding that Oscar, a former star in the Chelsea side that won the English Premier League, could be playing for one of the big clubs in a major European league.

The transition from a Melbourne summer to a Chinese winter – daytime temperatures are around 8 degrees, with the mercury falling at night – was not a problem, the coach said, as the cooler climate provided ideal football weather.

Victory arrived in Shanghai at the weekend, so have had plenty of time to acclimatise to the conditions and the different time zone.

Having dropped two points at home first time out, Muscat and his men know that if they cannot get something out of this match their chances of qualifying will be dimmed considerably.

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SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

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