Tight security promised for Nanjing soccer clash

Visiting fans advised to stay low-key as first match is played between the nations since the brutal war-time massacre by invading troops

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 5:20am


Tight security and palpable historical tensions are expected tonight when Japan's Vegalta Sendai play China's Jiangsu Sainty in Nanjing, the scene of a war-time massacre by Japanese troops.

Thousands of police and security staff will guard the AFC Champions League fixture, which is believed to be the first senior men's soccer match involving a Japanese team in the city since the atrocities of late 1937 and early 1938.

Another Champions League match tonight sees mainland champions Guangzhou Evergrande host South Korea's Jeonbuk Motors in Guangzhou.

According to reports, the Japanese embassy in Beijing has urged Japanese living in China to keep a low profile during the game in Nanjing and tomorrow's clash between Beijing Guoan and Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Relations have plummeted and anti-Japan street protests have flared on the mainland recently, over the disputed Diaoyu island chain, which is claimed by both countries.

One mainland report said Japan had asked China to guarantee the safety of the visiting team and its supporters in Nanjing.

Another said Beijing authorities had urged the Japanese fans to use only designated buses to travel to the stadium, and asked visiting Japanese media to stay at the team hotel.

Only a small number of Japanese fans are expected at the 60,000-seat stadium. About 100 tickets were sold through the club and a travel agent, although more fans may try to gain entry at the stadium.

Meanwhile, consolidation of their current position rather than a repeat performance of last season's stunning introduction to regional club football will be the order of the day for Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande tonight when they lock horns once again with South Korea's Jeonbuk Motors.

Guangzhou - then coached by Korean Lee Jang-soo - made their debut in the AFC Champions League last year with a stunning 5-1 victory over the K-League side before going on to reach the quarter-finals in their debut involvement in the tournament.

Almost 12 months on, the two teams meet again with Guangzhou having already made a winning start to their AFC Champions League campaign with a 3-0 win at Tianhe Stadium over Japan's Urawa Reds, but Lippi's main aim is to return to China with his club still unbeaten in the competition.

"We want to win three points, however one point will be acceptable," said the Italian World Cup winner, whose side kicked off the defence of their Chinese Super League crown with a 5-1 win over Shanghai Shenxin on Friday evening.

"Sun Xiang only played 60 minutes against Shanghai, Gao Lin played for half a game and Muriqui only played for 20 minutes. They are all saving themselves for the AFC Champions League."

Gao came on as a substitute at the start of the second period as a replacement for Paraguayan Lucas Barrios, who went off injured and the former Borussia Dortmund striker remains a doubt.

New Brazilian signing Elkeson scored twice but is not part of the ACL squad while Gao, Muriqui and Dario Conca also scored. "The only uncertain thing is the injury to Lucas Barrios and we are not sure if he can play on Tuesday," Lippi said.

Victory would put Guangzhou in a strong position to qualify from group F, from which the winners as well as the runners-up will advance to the competition's round of 16.