Kuala Lumpur: The AFC Champions League semi-final between Shanghai SIPG and Urawa Red Diamonds will pit some of the continent’s finest local and foreign players against one other.
And when it comes to attack, it’s fair to say that Shanghai SIPG have more than their fair share with a pair of Brazilian superstars dovetailing with one of the best Asian forwards around.
There’s only one to describe Hulk’s 2017 AFC Champions League campaign so far: incredible.
The Brazilian is the tournament’s leading scorer (8), tops the assist tally (7), most chances created (21), most dribbles completed (40), most duels won (93), and the list goes on.
Perhaps the key statistic is that in every continental game Hulk has played this year, he has scored.
The former Porto and Zenit Saint Petersburg star’s strengths are literally that: a physicality that has been hitherto unseen in the AFC Champions League in recent times.
A force of nature with the ball at his feet and a power in his boots when shooting that has yet to be coped with by any of Asia’s custodians.
With Oscar, Elkeson, Wu Lei and Odil Ahmedov alone, Shanghai SIPG are formidable going forward but with Hulk in the side the attack is among the best on the continent.
Hulk’s key partner in crime, is China star Wu Lei who has improved on last year’s already impressive AFC Champions League debut.
The 25-year-old one club man has already matched his 2016 goals tally (5) but unlike his first continental outing maintained his form into the last eight, where his brace against Guangzhou Evergrande helped Shanghai SIPG into the final four.
Wu Lei is joint top with Hulk and Mohsen Mosalman of Persepolis in chances created (21), but also adds an important all-round element to his game having made 14 interceptions – the highest by a forward amongst the semi-finalists.
Currently the all-time top goalscorer for Shanghai SIPG, Wu Lei’s game has risen to another level with the presence of midfielders Oscar and Odil Ahmedov, who joined ahead of the 2017 season.
Expect Wu Lei to start off on his favoured right-wing against Urawa Red Diamonds but given the license to roam across the pitch, inter-changing and inter-playing with Hulk to deadly effect.
Shanghai SIPG rocked the football world when they announced the transfer of Chelsea’s Oscar ahead of the 2017 season and the 26-year-old has proved an astute signing so far.
The boy from Brazil was brought in to be a creative addition to the midfield and he has certainly performed his playmaker role well.
Oscar ranks in the top five for chances created (16), top six in dribbles completed (20), and with a passing accuracy of over 80 percent.
What should also be noted, though, is the impact he had in the less glamorous side of the game.
The 24-year-old is joint second in tackles won (19), third in duels won (78), and has also tallied a high number of interceptions.
Played at the heart of Andre Villas-Boas’ midfield, Oscar forms a superlative trio with compatriot Hulk and Wu Lei.
If the threesome are on song, Urawa will be in for a difficult set of ties.
Photos: Lagardère Sports