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Lightning strikes Shanghai SIPG’s title hopes

Shanghai (AFP) – Shanghai SIPG’s preparations for Tuesday’s AFC Champions League quarter-final first leg against Guangzhou Evergrande have been disrupted by what Andre Villas-Boas called “a very bad” trip home from a damaging weekend defeat.

The Portuguese coach effectively conceded the Chinese Super League (CSL) title to leaders and reigning champions Evergrande following a 2-1 loss on Saturday at Guizhou Zhicheng.

Compounding his and SIPG’s misery for what promises to be a defining week in their season, Villas-Boas revealed on Monday that the team’s flight back had been badly delayed because of lightning in Shanghai.

“We had a very bad trip returning from Guizhou, not only because of the result but because we had problems with the flights and we only got back at 4:30am,” said the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager.

“It’s not ideal preparation for this game, but we still have tonight and tomorrow to rest a bit.

“We are in a long, competitive run of fixtures and trips and hopefully we can be fresh for tomorrow.”

SIPG’s CSL hopes might be over — they are eight points behind Tuesday’s opponents as they enter the final stretch of the season — but they are still fighting on two fronts in the domestic cup and Champions League.

Villas-Boas, who will come under pressure if he fails to deliver silverware this season, wants to take at least a one-goal advantage back to southern China for the second leg next month against two-time Asian champions Evergrande.

The likes of Oscar and Hulk, SIPG’s star players, will be given as much time as possible to recover from a hectic run of games.

Villas-Boas was left to rue a packed programme that has seen his side play at least two games each week as they approach the business end of the season.

“The players look sharp and fit, it’s just the accumulation of games and trips is the problem, the rest time,” he said.

“The calendar is a bit too compact and could easily be better spread out during the year, but it’s not up to me to organise the fixture list.

“Ideal would be for this game to be one day later, but at least the two teams are Chinese and in the same country.”

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