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It's Evergrande or bust

Updated: 2012-05-15 07:56
By Tang Zhe ( China Daily)

It's Evergrande or bust

 It's Evergrande or bust

Muriqui (left) and Cho Won-hee of Guangzhou Evergrande play during a training session ahead of their final AFC Champions League group match against Thailand's Buriram United on Tuesday. Guangzhou must win to make sure of a spot into the knockout stage. Muriqui is in doubt for the match due to injury. Provided to China Daily

 It's Evergrande or bust

Dario Conca (right) and Cleo warm up during the training session. Star midfielder Conca was suspended nine games and fined 1 million yuan ($159,000) by the club for attacking the coach on his weibo account, but the ban might be lifted in order to win this decisive match.

Guangzhou team China's last chance to claim glory in premier Asian competition

Guangzhou Evergrande is the only Chinese club worth following in the last group game of the first stage of AFC Champions League as Beijing Guo'an and Tianjian Teda have already been eliminated.

A victory against Thailand team Buriram United, who beat Evergrande 2-1 in their first game in Guangzhou, will send the Chinese side through to the second phase of the competition.

Evergrande won't want to miss the knockout stage as boss Xu Jiayin vowed his side would at least make the quarterfinals of the Asian tournament after it won its first domestic league title last November. A win would also help head coach Lee Jang-soo quiet down rumors about him being replaced by Italian coach Marcello Lippi.

The South American trio of Muriqui, Dario Conca and Cleo has played well for the club in the competition thus far and has scored all of the team's goals 10.

However, Muriqui was injured during a domestic match against Dalian Aerbin on May 6 and said then it would take him about three weeks to recover. Chinese media reported Muriqui had resumed limited training last week but wouldn't play if he felt the injury could worsen.

Conca was suspended nine games and punished 1 million yuan ($159,000) by the club for attacking the coach on his weibo account after being substituted in the 60th minute of the Champions League game against Jeonbuk.

The Argentine could also face punishment from the AFC for carrying his 2-month-old son onto the pitch before that game.

In a poll launched by Chinese website Sina.com, more than 93 percent of participants believe Evergrande will suffer substantially from Muriqui's absence, and 70 percent have asked the club to lift the ban against Conca.

Former Chinese national team coach Arie Haan said Evergrande has the potential to make the next round if Muriqui could play.

"Sometimes when I look at Evergrande, my feeling is Muriqui is 50 percent of the team. The moment Muriqui cannot play, then they have problems. They are not as strong without him," said the 63-year-old Dutchman.

"I don't know how bad he is (injured), but he is very important to the team. I hope he can play, then they will have no problems at all (against Buriram)," he said.

It's Evergrande or bust

While, Muriqui seems to be the only foreign player indispensible to the club, in Haan's eyes, Conca, who is reported to have a long-standing conflict with Lee, will likely surrender his place to Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios, who signed with Evergrande this month.

"Conca (will leave the team) ... he has been punished, so you know it will happen," said Haan, who quit his coaching role at second-flight club Shenyang Shenbei this month. "There is a saying 'you never punish yourself', the club has punished itself by not letting Conca play. Maybe they wanted it like this, otherwise they wouldn't do it."

Evergrande coach Lee said Conca had to learn to obey the club's rules, but it is widely believed he will play on Tuesday.

"We understand Conca's situation, but as a professional player, he is not allowed to lose his mind even once. The club has regulations, and we all have to obey the rules," the South Korean said.


(China Daily 05/15/2012 page22)