Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers will entertain China’s Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday as the last two winners of the continental title face off at Parramatta Stadium looking to take control of Group H.
Western Sydney, who edged out Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal 1-0 on aggregate in last year’s final, began the defence of their title with a 3-1 win in Japan over Kashima Antlers last week despite disappointing domestic form.
And while that continued with a thrilling 4-3 defeat by Sydney FC in the A-League on Saturday after Tony Popovic’s side had fought back from three goals down, Western Sydney will need little inspiration for Tuesday’s re-match with 2013 champions Guangzhou.
The Chinese Super League champions, who opened their campaign with a 1-0 win over Korea Republic’s FC Seoul, crucially lost last year’s quarter-final first leg 1-0 at Parramatta Stadium before eventually exiting the tournament on away goals despite a 2-1 win in the return fixture.
“When they see the other three Chinese teams all won in AFC Champions League this week, they should realise that every team is improving so should we,” said Guangzhou coach Fabio Cannavaro following the win over FC Seoul, who will look to make a belated start to the continental challenge at home to Kashima also on Tuesday.
“We have to work not only with 100% effort, but 200%, to keep us at where we are now.”
Guangzhou’s win ensured a 100% return from Chinese Super League sides last week and 2014 domestic runners-up Beijing Guoan will look to extend their perfect start at home to Korea’s Suwon Bluewings in Group G.
Having earned a place in the group stage via the play-offs, a deflected stoppage time free-kick from substitute Shao Jiayi last week in Australia snatched a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar.
And Beijing top the table heading into the second round of fixtures alongside of Matchday Two opponents Suwon after the K-League Classic side obeat former winners Urawa Reds from Japan 2-1 last week.
Urawa, who won the AFC Champions League in 2007, will entertain Australian champions Brisbane with both sides looking for their first points of the campaign.
Meanwhile in the West, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal will look to strengthen their position at the top of Group C as the 2014 finalists travel to Qatar to face former champions Al Sadd under the guidance of new Greek coach Giorgos Donis.
Romanian Ciprian Panait oversaw last week’s 3-1 win over Uzbekistan’s Lokomotiv following the earlier departure of compatriot Laurentiu Reghecampf, who led Al Hilal to last year’s final.
Also in Group C on Tuesday, Lokomotiv will look to bounce back from their defeat by Al Hilal as the Uzbekistan Cup winners entertain Iran champions Foolad Khouzestan, who shared a goalless draw with 2011 champions Al Sadd last week.
Finally, Group D leaders Nasaf from Uzbekistan travel to Saudi Arabia to face Al Ahli, while United Arab Emirates champions Al Ahli face Tractorsazi Tabriz in Iran.
CAPTION – Western Sydney Wanderers will face 2013 winners Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday having began the defence of their title with a 3-1 win over Japan’s Kashima Antlers last week.