Hulk to return to Shanghai SIPG to face Urawa Reds in ACL semi
Hulk is set to return to the starting lineup for Shanghai SIPG as the Chinese Super League side attempt to see off Urawa Red Diamonds and book a place in the final of this year's AFC Champions League (CSL).
The bulky Brazilian, top scorer in the tournament with nine goals, missed his side's 3-3 draw with Liaoning Whowin on Saturday due to suspension. The result swung the momentum in the domestic title race even more firmly in favour of defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Hulk, though, will be focusing on an Urawa side who hold the most slender of advantages after the first-leg meeting between the teams last month when they drew 1-1 at Shanghai Stadium.
The 31-year-old was on target with a thunderous strike from outside the area that was cancelled out by Yosuke Kashiwagi with what could turn out to be a vital goal for the former Asian champions, coached by ex-Premier League boss Andre Villas-Boas.
A scoreless draw will take Urawa through to the club's second AFC Champions League final after the Japanese side won the title in 2007, but defender Tomoaki Makino knows his side cannot afford to sit back.
"In terms of how we should play the game we know that just a draw is okay, but despite that we have to come in with the feeling that we have to win the game," said Makino, who was rested for Urawa's 1-1 draw with Vissel Kobe in the J-League on Saturday.
"We're not thinking about playing with a defensive approach. All we're thinking is that if we win then we go on to the next stage."
Makino and Wataru Endo will be available for Urawa after both were also rested by coach Takafumi Hori, following their involvement with the Japan national team last week.
The meeting between Urawa and Shanghai will be the fourth in this year's competition, with the pair having faced off twice in the group stages.
SIPG won the first meeting in Shanghai 3-2 before Urawa claimed a 1-0 victory in the return. Both sides progressed to the next phase, scoring regularly throughout the competition, with Shanghai finding the net 26 times, compared to Urawa's 27 in 11 games.
"I'm getting excited," Makino said. "We've had the aim at Urawa for several years now of wanting to win the Asian Champions League and now it's the reality that we have come this far in a good way.
"I think we all have to aim at winning the title, rather than just winning this game and progressing to the final."
The victors from Wednesday's game will likely take on Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia.
The Riyadh-based cub handed Persepolis from Iran a 4-0 thrashing in the first leg of their semifinal three weeks ago. The two clubs meet on Tuesday evening.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch