Guangzhou confident of beating Qataris

President says big-spending club have learned from last year's exit to Middle East opposition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 4:10am

Guangzhou Evergrande will face Middle Eastern opposition in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League for the second year in a row after Marcello Lippi's side were drawn against 2012 Qatar champions Lekhwiya in the next round of the continental championship.

The back-to-back Chinese Super League and FA Cup winners were eliminated 5-4 on aggregate at the same stage last year by two-time winners Al Ittihad from Saudi Arabia, despite winning the second leg at home 2-1.

Lippi and his squad will be confident of advancing against a Lekhwiya side that - although boasting up to seven players who have played for the Qatar national team - are playing in the quarter-finals for the first time.

Guangzhou will host the first leg at Tianhe Stadium on August 21 before travelling to Doha on September 18. The winners will meet either Japan's Kashiwa Reysol or Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab in the semi-finals.

"As is the case with any draw, it's not really about which opponent we play but it's more about how strong we are," said Guangzhou president Liu Yong-zhuo. "Last year we had the experience of playing in west Asia and there is an old saying in Chinese: the first time you are a stranger but the second time you are familiar, so we think this year we will perform better than we did last season.

"This year our target has always been to at least reach the semi-finals and … get to the final and maybe win the title and become champions. So we'll do our best."

Speculation has mounted over the make-up of the Guangzhou squad for the quarter-finals, with Brazilian striker Elkeson, the Chinese Super League's top scorer with 15 goals, expected in some quarters to replace Paraguayan Lucas Barrios.

Clubs have until July 21 to declare their final 30-man squads, although alterations can be made up until a week before the first leg of the quarter-finals and Liu refused to be drawn on the club's plans.

"Let's see what will happen," said Liu. "There is still a long time until the deadline and many things can happen."

On the other side of the draw, Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli, last year's runners-up, will host the first leg of their quarter-final against South Korean champions FC Seoul, while two-time Asian champions Esteghlal from Iran meet surprise quarter-finalists Buriram United from Thailand.