Lippi wary as Guangzhou Evergrande eye play-offs
Evergrande's head coach is not taking any chances against Thailand's Muangthong United despite their being in a strong position in group
Guangzhou Evergrande stand on the verge of qualifying for the knockout rounds of the AFC Champions League, but head coach Marcello Lippi is taking nothing for granted ahead of the return meeting with Thailand's Muangthong United tonight.
Guangzhou handed the Thai Premier League champions a 4-0 thrashing at Tianhe Stadium last Wednesday with Dario Conca scoring twice to maintain the Chinese Super League champions' unbeaten start to the continental club championship.
Another three points against the Thais tonight at Thunderdome Stadium and a win for Jeonbuk Motors over Japanese side Urawa Reds in group F's other game will guarantee Guangzhou a top-two finish and a place in the round of 16 in May with two matches remaining of the group stage.
"We are top of the group with seven points, but the group stage is not finished and we still need points to qualify so every game is important and we must maintain our level," said Lippi.
"We hope that we will play better in this game and we cannot let our guard down because Muangthong are a good team, which they showed in the first half in the last game.
"I have told my players they must play at 100 per cent to win the game to make sure that we can qualify."
Guangzhou go into the game at full strength and feeling refreshed after having their Chinese Super League encounter with Guizhou Renhe postponed until the end of May to assist both teams' preparations for this week's AFC Champions League matches.
Lippi's side were victorious in their first encounter against the Thais with all four goals coming in the second half and on this occasion the home side will be without the services of their star player, Thai international striker Teerasil Dangda.
"Guangzhou are one of the best teams in Asia and they have an unlimited budget and facing their golden duo of Conca and Muriqui is going to be extremely difficult to defend," said Muangthong coach Slavisa Jokanovic.
"We must try our best and we hope that we can win on our ground. We are well rested and the players are confident although they must forget the last match.
"Teerasil is banned and I hope that the player who replaces him will do his best because Teerasil is the best player in Thailand, although he did not start the last game against Guangzhou."
Guizhou, meanwhile, host Australia's Central Coast Mariners looking to avenge the 2-1 loss they sustained last week in a bid to keep their hopes of a place in the knockout phase of the competition alive.
Gong Lei's side are bottom of group H, well adrift of leaders Kashiwa Reysol from Japan but only three points behind Mariners, who are in second place at the halfway stage.
Victory in the game at the Guiyang Olympic Centre Stadium would keep Guizhou in contention for a top-two finish with Kashiwa meeting Suwon Bluewings aiming to pick up another three points against the South Korean side following their 6-2 win over Seo Jung-won's side last week.