Lion City Sailors outclassed by Urawa but task at hand to reach ACL last-16 remains unchanged

Lion City Sailors were on the receiving end of a heavy 6-0 defeat at the hands of Urawa Red Diamonds in AFC Champions League 2022 on Wednesday. Pakawich Damrongkiattisak/Getty Images

It was a second heavy defeat to one of Asian football's traditional heavyweights, which again highlighted just what Lion City Sailors are up against in their maiden appearance in the AFC Champions League.

Put aside the obvious demoralising effect of Wednesday's 6-0 thrashing by Urawa Red Diamonds, however, and the task at hand for the Sailors to reach the Round of 16 remains unchanged.

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Claim a victory over Daegu on Saturday -- regardless of what the South Korean outfit do against Shandong Taishan later on Wednesday evening -- and the Sailors will finish second in Group F.

Considering the runners-up are not assured of a Round-of-16 berth, just why could that be enough for the Sailors?

Qualification for the knockout stage in the ACL is an oft-confusing proposition, with only the ten group winners guaranteed progress and joined by the six best-performing runner-up teams.

Further convoluting matters in the East Zone is the fact that Shanghai Port's withdrawal on the eve of the tournament left Group J with just three teams.

With an uneven number of teams, the runner-up rankings that will be used to determine qualification for the last-16 will omit results against the bottom-placed sides for four-team groups.

To simplify matter, based on the premise there is a clear difference between each of the top three teams, it can be assumed that the top-ranked side will take 12 points from four games while the runners-up will claim six - with the third-placed outfit claiming none against the two "stronger" opponents.

But it is never that simple and hardly this uncompetitive. Upsets or freak results occur, and It is already impossible that that every group will finish this way.

Which means that as long as a team can get two wins, they are almost certain to advance.

In one of those aforementioned shock results, the Sailors already have one win against Daegu -- their maiden triumph in the competition coming on match day 2.

Even if Daegu join Urawa on ten points by beating Shandong later on Wednesday, the Sailors will move level by beating the K League 1 outfit in three days' time, finish above them due to a superior head-to-head record and have the six points that should be enough.

The only potential spanner in the works is the event of unimaginable Urawa defeat to bottom side Shandong on Saturday, which could result the trio being tied on ten points each and the even more confusing scenario of a three-way head-to-head record.

Nonetheless, the probability game can wait for now.

The fact of the matter remains that the job the Sailors have to do has not been affected by a second heavy defeat to Urawa, having been beaten 4-1 in their opening game.

And perhaps Sailors coach Kim Do-hoon was thinking just that, having made the strange decision to leave out a whole host of star names from his starting XI on Wednesday, perhaps with one eye on the weekend.

Beat Daegu, and Lion City might just be sailing on into the Round of 16 in their maiden voyage in Asia's premier club competition.