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Guangzhou Evergrande ready to make major splash

Updated: 2013-02-26 07:57
By Tang Zhe ( China Daily)

With a host of Chinese national players and a high-caliber group of foreign stars, Chinese Super League champion Guangzhou Evergrande is expecting to make a large impact on the AFC Champions League.

After winning the domestic league the past two seasons, the cash-rich club has added three more Chinese internationals - right winger Feng Renliang, goalkeeper Zeng Cheng and defender Zhao Peng to its already powerful lineup, boosting its squad to a total of 11 national players.

Combined with the South American trio of Argentine Dario Conca, Brazilian striker Muriqui and Paraguayan Lucas Barrios, head coach Marcello Lippi's primary mission now is to fight for the Asian title.

Evergrande boss Xu Jiayin said in 2011 that he wanted to win the AFC Champions League title within five years. He has since accelerated that goal after the team reached the quarterfinals in the past year.

Guangzhou Evergrande ready to make major splash

The Cantonese team plays Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds in a Group F opener at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium on Tuesday. Urawa won the tournament in 2007, but is returning to the Asian competition for the first time since 2008.

To boost the morale of the Guangzhou squad, the club has retained its awards policy. The team will receive 6 million yuan ($962,700) for a win, 3 million yuan for a draw, 2 million yuan for each goal scored more than its opponent and 6 million yuan for qualifying through to the next round.

Evergrande was eliminated by Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad 5-4 on aggregate in the quarterfinals last year despite winning 2-1 in the second leg at home.

"I still feel regret about that game (the home win). We played our best game, but were knocked out of the tournament due to a lack of luck," Lippi said. "If this year we can play as well as we did in that (home) game against Ittihad, I would be full of confidence about our prospects in the tournament."

Two other Chinese clubs, Jiangsu Sainty and Guizhou Renhe, will make their debuts in the tournament.

In Group E, Chinese league runnerup Jiangsu will start its campaign on the road against South Korean champion Seoul FC. Guizhou will tackle Japanese Emperor's Cup champion Kashiwa Reysol in Group H.

Though Jiangsu has stated the Champions League is its priority this season, the absence of Romanian striker Christian Danalache, the past season's golden boot winner, will undoubtedly weaken the team's attacking power.

Meanwhile, Guizhou's lack of international experience and recent coaching reshuffle has hardly raised expectations. Moreover, new coach Gong Lei's squad will be boosted by the arrival of Zvjezdan Misimovic, captain of the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team.

A fourth Chinese team, Beijing Guo'an, will face Korean FA Cup winner Pohang Steelers in Group G. The club is not likely to have an easy year on the domestic or international fronts as it has traded eight of its local players, including star Xu Liang, and has made no major signings.


(China Daily 02/26/2013 page24)