18 August 2014 06:52
Defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande enter their AFC Champions League quarter-final against Western Sydney as heavy favourites.
The Asian heavyweights, who comfortably lead the Chinese Super League (CSL), remain favourites to win the continental tournament for a second time.
Marcello Lippi’s men have lost just three times in the league this season, sitting 10 points clear at the top.
In Alberto Gilardino and Alessandro Diamanti, Evergrande have the attacking quality to tear teams apart heading into Wednesday’s first leg in Sydney.
Brazilian forward Elkeson continues to score freely, with 17 in the CSL and a team-high five in the Champions League.
Diamanti urged his team to be focused ahead of the clash at Parramatta Stadium.
“I am not interested in commenting on the opponents,” he told FIFA.com.
“If Guangzhou want to retain the Asian title we must win against all opposition. To achieve that, we should be fully prepared for the matches to come.”
The difference in resource and spending between Evergrande and the Western Sydney Wanderers is huge.
Tony Popovic’s men, runners-up in the A-League last season, are sure to be well-organised and put up a fight.
But in a huge blow, Popovic will be without Australia defender Matthew Spiranovic due to an ankle injury.
And while Evergrande are in-season, the Wanderers’ only competitive game since late May has been a 1-0 loss to South Australian state league side Adelaide City in the FFA Cup on Tuesday.
Popovic, whose team beat J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the round of 16, was welcoming of the huge challenge.
“They have got the resources, they have got the players, they have got the coach and they want to be the best and they proved that last year,” he told the club’s website.
“It will be a huge challenge coming off a pre-season and playing against such a heavyweight.
“On the other hand, that’s something you expect when you’re among the best eight teams in Asia; that you’re going to have to play a great side to get through.
“It’s a huge challenge but one we are really looking forward to. I think the club is embracing it and I think our fans will embrace it as well.
“We showed against the Japanese champions that we can handle pressure against a top opponent and this is another one. We expected it to be tough regardless of whom we got. We have got the very best and we want to see how we match up against them.”