Guangzhou chasing title despite tough draw

Updated: 2012-12-07 23:26

By TANG ZHE (China Daily)

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After sweeping three domestic titles in a year, reigning Chinese Super League champion Guangzhou Evergrande is more than keen to talk about its AFC Champions League ambitions.

Evergrande clinched crowns in the Chinese Super League, the Chinese FA Cup and the Chinese Super Cup in 2012. However, its debut performance in the continental tournament failed to impress boss Xu Jiayin.

At the club's year-end feast last month, Xu expressed his desire to win the regional club event and set the goal of "making the semifinals and fighting for the trophy".

That ambitious target was thrown into action on Thursday during the group draw in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Evergrande will battle former AFC Champions League winner Urawa Reds from Japan and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from Korea in Group F, along with Thailand league champion SCG Muangthong United.

"The boss has already set the target … and we can't change it now due to the draw," said Liu Yongzhuo, chairman of the club. "There is no lucky draw or bad draw. All those sides in the AFC Champions League are strong teams. All we can do is our best in each game."

Player Qin Sheng was more optimistic, saying the team's only goal was to win the title.

"I think we can reach the second round as group winner - the same as last year - because Evergrande is competitive enough to do that," Qin said. "We were short on experience in our debut year, but we still finished No 1 in our group. Compared with last year, at least we are more experienced. Moreover, the team and coach (Marcello) Lippi understand each other better, which is very crucial to us.

"We fully understand that our goal in the tournament is not to just survive the group stage or be the group winner, but to fight for the title, because winning the title is the dream of the coach and every player," Qin said.

Apart from Evergrande and tournament regular Beijing Guo'an, CSL runner-up Jiangsu Sainty and fourth-placed Guizhou Renhe will also represent China.

Sainty's ambitions will be hurt by the fact that its Romanian striker, Christian Danalache, who scored 23 goals to top the CSL last season, will most likely miss several matches due to injury.

"As a team in our first year in the AFC Champions League, Sainty faces little pressure. All we have to do is play our best each game," said Zheng Ming, deputy manager of Sainty.

The AFC Champions League group matches kick off on Feb 26.