x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Estudiantes plan to attack despite striker dilemma

Conmebol champions Estudiantes face a shortage of strikers ahead of tonight's Club World Cup semi-final against South Korea's Pohang Steelers.

ABU DHABI // Conmebol champions Estudiantes face a shortage of strikers ahead of tonight's Club World Cup semi-final against South Korea's Pohang Steelers. The Argentine side's coach Alejandro Sabella is expected to call on Mauro Boselli, the top scorer in Estudiantes' triumphant Copa Libertadores campaign, who has Club World Cup experience having played for Boca Juniors in 2007. But Sabella is definitely without the injured Jose Salgueiro, while Marcelo Carrusca, who pulled up with a muscle problem during Sunday's rain-disrupted practice, is also doubtful.

The absence of two key forwards, however, will not alter the team's plan to take the game to their Asian rivals, according to holding midfielder Rodrigo Brana. "We got to see the Koreans play live for the first time [against TP Mazembe last Friday], and we know that it'll be a tough match," Brana said. "I think that they will let us make all the running, so it will be up to us to take the game to them."

The return of defensive rock Leandro Desabato should provide that platform. The centre-half is fighting to be included in Sabella's line-up, despite doing only light training over the past three days. Injuries or not, Estudiantes should overcome the Steelers, who will field Brazil's Denilson - the tournament's leading scorer on two goals - as a solo attacker. But with the winners of Barcelona and Atlante awaiting Sabella's team in the final, should they progress, the striker dilemma is a delicate one for the coach.

The form of Pohang's inspirational centre-half and captain Hwang Jae Won, who nullified the threat of Mazembe striker Tresor Mputu so superbly last week, may serve to compound Estudiantes' lack of firepower. Enforcer Brana, who is unlikely to provide Pohang's creative force, Kim Jae Sung, the space he was afforded by the vanquished Africans, is heeding caution. "Pohang like to play on the break," he said.

"They showed against Mazembe that they can turn a match on its head, so we'll have to be very careful." emegson@thenational.ae