Friday, March 23, 2018 | ePaper
Scolari's Evergrande chase Champions League miracle
Luiz Felipe Scolari's Guangzhou Evergrande must perform an AFC Champions League miracle on Tuesday if they are to overhaul a 4-0 deficit in their quarter-final home clash with Shanghai SIPG.
Evergrande are streaking away from their domestic rivals in the Chinese Super League (CSL) but were embarrassed in Shanghai three weeks ago when Andre Villas-Boas's side was rampant in the first leg.
Hulk scored from the spot and was a menace throughout as the bustling Brazilian striker made it seven goals in Asia's premier club competition this season.
Wu Lei also hit a quickfire brace against a Guangzhou side that Scolari admitted afterwards had badly missed key midfielder Paulinho, who swapped China for Barcelona last month for 40 million euros ($48 million).
Muriqui, the Evergrande forward who recently returned to the club where he was a Champions League winner in 2013, said they need to believe they can pull off the improbable.
"It will be hard to turn this match around, but it is not impossible," the 31-year-old Brazilian was quoted as saying by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website.
"Coach Scolari asked us to focus right from kick-off until the final whistle and avoid repeating our first-leg mistakes. If we do so, we still have a chance."
Shanghai trail reigning champions Guangzhou by eight points in the CSL, but Villas-Boas appears to have worked out a way to get the better of the seasoned Scolari in cup competitions.
Shanghai lead Evergrande 2-1 from the semi-final first leg in the Chinese cup, with the return in southern China later this month. But Villas-Boas warned his players against complacency.
"We have to be careful because we are in an advantage in both legs in both cups," said the Portuguese, who like Scolari is a former Chelsea manager, following last month's first-leg Champions League rout.
"But we will have two difficult games in Guangzhou and Evergrande are a winning team (two-time AFC Champions League winners) so we will have to be at our best to get through both competitions."
The winners of the all-Chinese tie will play either Urawa Reds or Kawasaki Frontale in the semi-finals.
The Japanese sides play Wednesday with Kawasaki 3-1 up from the first leg at home.