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Choi Kang-Hee explains Marouane Fellaini's absence in Kaya Iloilo-Shandong match

With the Chinese league and cup title hopes still alive, Shandong coach Choi Kang-Hee had to keep Marouane Fellaini fresh for a two-match swing at Dalian this weekend. Xinhua (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Probably some of the 1,728 fans at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, including those from a strong contingent of Chinese fans cheering for Shandong Taishan, were wondering why Marouane Fellaini was not around when the club faced Kaya Iloilo in the first AFC Champions League match in the Philippines on Tuesday night.

The former Manchester United star was arguably the headliner for Shandong ahead of their clash with Kaya Iloilo, but he was not listed in the 17-man roster activated for the match.

When asked why Fellaini did not come at all, coach Choi Kang-Hee said that the tight schedule factored a lot on who's traveling here and who's staying.

"Aside from Fellaini, we have many players who didn't come here because we still have a [match in the] domestic league after three days, so we have to choose the players who will come here and will stay in China," Choi said in Korean during the post-match press conference at the nearby Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

Shandong is currently second in the Chinese Super League table, but with the club trailing league leader Shanghai Port by nine points with five matches left in the season, Shandong must basically win all their remaining games and hope that Shanghai Port falter suddenly to win the championship and an outright place to next season's Champions League play.

Shandong will face Dalian twice on the road in the coming days, first in the CSL on Saturday and the other on Tuesday in the Chinese FA Cup semifinals.

At least in the Saturday match, Dalian also needs to score a lot of wins for them to keep their hopes of staying in the top division alive.

Dalian is currently in 15th place, which puts the club in serious danger of getting relegated, but they are just one point behind Nantong for survival.

Even without Fellaini, Shandong still did enough to take down Kaya Iloilo on the historic road trip, which should serve as an added boost ahead of its crucial Dalian clash back in China.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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