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Lippi eyes breakthrough in AFC Champions League

Updated: 2013-09-18 15:51
( Xinhua)

GUANGZHOU, Chinav - Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou Evergrande are looking forward to becoming the first Chinese club to reach the AFC Champions League semifinals since 2005.

Lippi's side will visit Qatar's Lekhwiya in the AFC Champions League quarterfinal second leg, holding a 2-0 victory from the first leg last month.

In Evergrande's first trip to west Asia in last year's Champions League, they lost 4-2 to Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia and eventually went out 5-4 on aggregate.

"It was a bitter moment for me and the team, and I couldn't forget that day for a long time," Lippi said in a previous interview, mentioning his heaviest defeat after taking charge of Guangzhou.

The Chinese Super League and Cup winners are now in a good position to go one step further.

Lippi, however, refused to show any sign of taking it for granted before the final whistle.

"A 2-0 at first leg certainly put us in a comfortable position and gave us confidence, but it is far from enough for us to go into the semifinals," the 65-year-old said at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

The Chinese side are in their best both in attack and defence. With 21 goals in nine games, they are currently top in the tournament. Brazilian forward Muriqui contributed eight and leads the scorers. Having conceded only six goals, they also have the best defensive record of the eight quarter-finalists.

"Job is half done, only with a strong winning appetite could we grab the other," Lippi said.

Having nearly wrapped up their third consecutive Chinese Super League title after opening up with a 14-point lead, Lippi's side are focused on becoming the first club from their country to reach the semifinals of the AFC Champions League in eight years.

"Being a big team, we have to keep on going in all three competitions including Chinese Super league, AFC champions league and the CFA Cup. It is certainly not an easy job considering the intense agenda," the Italian said.

Several clubs in Chinese Super League including Changchun, Shanghai and Liaoning even agreed to change the domestic league schedules to offer more time to the country's only team still alive in AFC Champions League.

"We appreciated the efforts from these clubs and the CFA, otherwise we would not be so focused on the continental competition," the club said in its official website on Tuesday.

For the other side, it is no doubt that Lekhwiya's form is getting better compared to their upsetting first leg.

The Qatari league defending champions kicked off their new season's league title race with a 3-3 draw at Al Sailiya Saturday, when they came back from a two-goal deficit to take the lead but were denied three points when the home side levelled with six minutes left.

"Our country's league just kicked off, we are in a better form than a month before," Lekhwiya coach Eric Gerets said.

"We didn't do a god job in Guangzhou last month, 2-0 was not a true reflection of the difference between us, I believe we can make it at home although it will be very hard," the 59-year-old Belgian added.