Tianjin Quanjian vs Ceres-Negros
Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium, Tianjin
Having only earned promotion from China League One at the end of 2016, few expected Tianjin Quanjian to make the impact they did in 2017, finishing third in their first season in the Chinese Super League.
With Alexandre Pato, Anthony Modeste and Axel Witsel, they possess a potent attacking line up that is complemented by Chinese internationals Wang Yongpo, Yang Xu and Sun Ke. Importantly, the squad remains largely the same as 2017, so they will be hoping to pick up where they left off.
While Fabio Cannavaro, who led the team to promotion and their success last season, has since departed, former Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa is a more than capable replacement as he targets even loftier goals this season.
Few people expected Ceres-Negros to make it this far, especially after they struggled past Myanmar champions Shan United in the first preliminary round.
But their win over Australia’s Brisbane Roar will go down in the history books and be spoken about at the club for decades to come. Far from a plucky, defensive, backs-to-the-wall performance, Ceres-Negros took the game to Brisbane Roar and fully deserved their win. Importantly, after conceding the first goal they didn’t panic, and they were rewarded with a deserved equaliser just before half time.
Maranon, who was a star for Ceres-Negros in their AFC Cup campaign last year, showed his predatory instincts with two quality goals either side of half time, while Stephan Schröck produced another masterful display in midfield, highlighting just how important the German-born midfielder is to this team.