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Evergrande primed for intriguing clash

By Yang Xinwei | China Daily | Updated: 2015-05-20 07:53

Two of Asia's top clubs will go all out to prove their doubters wrong in setting the stage for another shot at continental honors when China's Guangzhou Evergrande visits Seongnam FC of South Korea in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.

Seongnam is the two-time Asian champion while Evergrande gave China its first title in the competition in 2013.

The clash marks the second trip to South Korea for Fabio Cannavaro, Chinese Super League champion Evergrande's Italian coach. Less than a month ago the former World Cup winning captain secured a scoreless draw against FC Seoul and comfortably won Group H to return to the knockout stages for a fourth consecutive year.

Seongnam, which was known as Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma when it won the AFC Champions League in 2010 to add to its 1995 Asian Club Championship, finished second in Group F behind 2008 winner Gamba Osaka, losing 2-1 to the Japanese treble winner on the final day.

"We were in a tough group and qualified with one round left and I am very happy with it. We've been through lots of change this season and overcame many difficulties, but still we managed to qualify as the winner of the group," Cannavaro said after the group stage.

"But at last I think if we can show our quality, we can decide the result. We should focus on ourselves in every match."

Evergrande had trouble claiming a 1-1 draw with CPL league-leader Shanghai SIPG at the weekend and is in joint-second place with the other Chinese AFC Champions League team remaining, Beijing Guo'an, which takes on K-League champion Jeonbuk at Jeonju.

Seongnam is playing in the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League for a fifth time. It lost at this stage in 2012 to Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor.

"Guangzhou Evergrande has good players, but it is hard to make a full analysis on them just yet, so I want to have a good preparation for these matches," said Seongnam coach Kim Hak-bum, who saw forward Hwang Ui-jo and defender Kim Tae-youn injured against Gamba.

"I am also hoping to get our injured players back in time for those games as I expect the tournament to be tougher as it progresses."

Fellow K-League Classic side FC Seoul will also be in action, with the 2014 semifinalist hosting Gamba in their first leg at Seoul World Cup Stadium, albeit without suspended Spanish defender Osmar Barba.

FC Seoul, which reached the 2013 final, secured its place in the knockout stages as Group H runner-up after Colombian midfielder Mauricio Molina scored a last-gasp winner to ensure passage at the expense of Kashima Antlers two weeks ago in Japan.

The Korean capital city club will again face Japanese opposition in the round of 16 when it meets Gamba.

In the West, there will be an all-Emirati tie between United Arab Emirates champion Al Ain and domestic rival Al Ahli, who finished as runner-up in Group D to ensure its first appearance in the knockout stages.

Group B winner Al Ain, which reached the semifinals last year, will be without suspended midfielders Helal Saeed and Slovakia international Miroslav Stoch, while Al Ahli's UAE goalkeeper, Majed Naser, has also been ruled out.

"We are happy to qualify for the knockout stage as group winners," said Zlatko Dalic, coach of inaugural AFC Champions League winner Al Ain, following its 3-0 victory over Iran's Naft Tehran.

"We got 12 points, which is better than we achieved in the previous edition of the competition and this means that things will be promising in the next period."

Evergrande primed for intriguing clash

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