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Guangzhou Evergrande

Conca buoyant ahead of Al Ittihad clash

Guangzhou Evergrande’s Argentine midfielder Darío Conca is in buoyant mood ahead on Wednesday night’s AFC Champions League clash with Al Ittihad, believing that the Cantonese side are well prepared to come away with a good result.

Conca, 29, is competing in the competition for the first-time and was a key player for Evergrande as they reached the quarter-final stage with some impressive performances, with the club unbeaten away from home in this year’s competition.

Although Conca believes the weather in Saudi Arabia may be a factor, he is confident that his side are fully prepared for the game being billed as the battle of two former Brazilian players of the year – Conca and Al Ittihad’s new signing Diego Souza in 2010 and 2009 respectively.

“It is very hot for us here and it makes the game more difficult. However, I spent several summers in Rio de Janeiro – I will soon be able to adapt,” the Argentinian jokingly told Lancenet!.

“Unlike us newcomers, Al Ittihad have already won the AFC Champions League a few years ago. They have a wealth of experience, which will be a powerful weapon, but we are ready. We have already proved that we are also competitive.

“We know that we will have the support of the fans when we go out there. The most important thing is to remain calm. Intelligence and strategy will be key in this decisive match.”

Evergrande have faced some selection dilemmas going into the game, particularly in defence, but it appears that Italian coach Marcelo Lippi is set to stick with Korean Kim Young-Gwon, who will be partnered by the returning Feng Xiaoting. It will be the first time the duo have played together since Kim’s arrival at the club, having partnered Zhang Linpeng on the weekend.

Defence, though, has not been Evergrande’s problem in recent weeks, rather the scoring of goals. With last season’s star man Muriqui admitting this week that he has been out of touch in front of goal, the club have struggled to find the back of the net and he has not been alone.

Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios, who will lead the line this evening, has scored just once in the league since his arrival at the club and has already spoken of his discontent. Evergrande will hope that the former Borussia Dortmund star can capture some of his old form in the coming weeks as they look to become the first Chinese champions of Asia in over 20 years.

Despite the lack of goals, Lippi insisted on Tuesday that his side would not play for a draw in the opening away leg:

“You can’t just play for a draw in any game,” he told a press conference. “Even though we are away from home, we won’t be conservative, we must play to win.

“This is the first half of a 180 minute duel. When we get back to Guangzhou, we will still have the second half. Of course, if we are able to take away some away goals from this first leg it will be a great help.”

The match in Jeddah kicks-off at 1.35am Beijing time on Thursday morning (BST – 6.35pm Wednesday).

Based in Guangzhou, Christopher covers Chinese football for a range of media outlets worldwide and is Wild East Football's lead editor for news content.   His work can regularly be seen on ESPN FC, Bleacher Report and Hupu amongst other media outlets, while he has interviewed a number of leading figures in Chinese football.



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