Lippi confident ahead of step into the unknown
World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi is taking nothing for granted ahead of today's meeting with Japan's FC Tokyo in the last 16 of the AFC Champions League. The elimination showdown represents a make-or-break test for the Italian less than two weeks into his tenure with Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
With success in Asia's leading club competition a stated goal for big-spending Guangzhou, 64-year-old Lippi faces his first real test following his high-profile arrival in the south nearly two weeks ago. A place in September's quarter-finals is at stake at Tianhe Sports Centre.
The meeting with FC Tokyo, Japanese Emperor's Cup winners, is Lippi's first taste of continental football in Asia. He won the Uefa Champions League with Juventus in 1996.
It is his third game in charge of Guangzhou. Friday's 1-1 draw with Shandong Luneng followed a 1-0 win over Qingdao Jonoon just days after he succeeded Korean coach Lee Jang-soo. 'This is my first match in the AFC Champions League,' said Lippi, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006. 'This match is very important for me as it will be my debut in the [Asian] competition.
'FC Tokyo are a strong opponent. Their players have very good technique and are also very fast.'
Lippi has identified goalscoring trio Aria Jasuru Hasegawa, Tatsuya Yazawa and Kazuma Watanabe as FC Tokyo's main threats.
Brazilian strikers Cleo and Muriqui are injury doubts for Guangzhou. With midfielder Qin Sheng suspended, the absence of both Brazilians would be a blow. The pair have found the net three times each as Guangzhou won group H on their debut appearance in the Asian league with a dramatic 2-1 win over Thailand's Buriram United two weeks ago.
'It is going to be a tough match, but I am confident we are going to settle the game inside the 90 minutes,' Lippi said. 'We know that FC Tokyo are playing very well away, better than they are playing at home, and we are finding ways to respond to their aggressive play.'