Marcello Lippi sings same tune ahead of 'fifth' Champions League final
The Italian says the Seoul clash is as important to him as his four Uefa Champions League finals
Throughout Guangzhou Evergrande's run to the final, Marcello Lippi has been unfailingly consistent. Not only has the Italian World Cup winner stuck to the same core players, he has also repeated the same line as Guangzhou have gone deeper into the tournament.
"It's my fifth Champions League final," he has said consistently since qualification for the final was sealed with an emphatic 8-1 aggregate win over Japan's Kashiwa Reysol, "whether in Europe or in Asia".
In the eyes of Lippi, the meeting with FC Seoul carries the same weight as his Juventus side's win over Ajax in 1996, or the significance of the games he lost in 1997, 1998 and 2003; for the 65-year-old there is no difference.
"I give the AFC Champions League a lot of importance," he said. "Not only are we talking about the tournament but also because I've been with this team two years now and I've seen them psychologically and physically and the team is much more organised.
"I also appreciate a lot of the support that the fans give us back at home for any sort of tournament we take part in. So, obviously, I would give it a lot of importance to win this tournament. I won the Uefa Champions League and this would be at an equal level."
The shadow of European football often - and understandably - hangs over the Asian club game, but for Lippi the AFC Champions League brings with it a new phenomenon: a final played over two legs.
"This is my first time having to play the final over two games, so it's something different for me," he said. "You have to plan out your game and your tactics. It's a decisive game until the last minute of the second game and you have to be really well prepared for both the first match and the second match."
Lippi is not the only individual involved in the final to have experience of more than one continental club competition.
Dario Conca played in the final of South America's Copa Libertadores with Fluminense in 2008, while FC Seoul's Cha Du-ri - suspended for tonight's first leg - played at continental level in Europe with Celtic.
Guangzhou's Sun Xiang, meanwhile, was the first Chinese player to feature in the Uefa Champions League when he turned out for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in 2007.
"I'm really happy to play in the AFC Champions League because I've played in the European Champions League, so now I'm playing in a different region and I'm very proud to be in the final," said Sun, who also played in the Uefa Cup with Austria Vienna.
"I'll do the best. Everybody knows our club has done well in the last four years. We get stronger every year and we win the Chinese championship and now we can change history in China."