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Football
Ghangzhou eye Asian knock-outs
Chinese debutants can seal passage to the AFC Champions League last-16 with victory against former winners Jeonbuk.
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2012 11:41
Guangzhou's investment in players such as Argentinian Dario Leonardo Conca looks to have paid off as they prepare to host former champions Jeonbuk Motors knowing a win would put them in the last-16 [AFP]

Deep-pocketed Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande can reach the AFC Champions League knock-outs on debut on Tuesday as a make-or-break week for Asia's club showpiece gets under way.

Guangzhou, who famously made little-known Argentinian Dario Conca one of the world's best-paid players, will hope to see more returns on their investments when they host former Asian champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.

They are among a series of teams who can clinch a round of 16 spot in the penultimate set of group games played around the region on Tuesday and Wednesday, with only UAE's Al Jazira already through.

Money talks

Guangzhou, backed by a leading property firm and led by midfielder Conca and Brazilian striker Muriqui, can prove a point for China's new-look football league by securing the necessary win against Jeonbuk, last year's finalists.

Guangzhou thrashed South Korea's Jeonbuk 5-1 in Jeonju in March, and recovered from defeat to Thailand's Buriram United by taking four points from their double-header with Japan's Kashiwa Reysol to top Group H by a point.

They are the best-placed team from China's Super League, which has spent big on star players including Nicolas Anelka in the wake of a major corruption scandal, with Beijing Guoan bottom and Tianjin Teda third in their groups.

Adelaide United, the 2008 runners-up, can also reach the knock-out stages if they beat Uzbek champions Bunyodkor at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Coach John Kosmina said the Reds were hoping to secure progression before their final Group E game, a tricky away trip to Japan's Gamba Osaka - their conquerors in the 2008 final.

"We don't want to go to Japan in just over two weeks chasing a result," Kosmina said, according to a press release.

"Because as much as Gamba are bottom of the group at the moment, playing in front of their home crowd they've certainly got a lot to play for apart from pride."

Japanese favourites

FC Tokyo and Ulsan Hyundai are raging favourites to go through from Group F with both enjoying a six-point advantage over Brisbane Roar and Beijing Guoan, who are placed third and fourth respectively.

Two-time winners Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia are sitting on a three-point lead in Group B as they host Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor, while Al Ahli and Foolad Sepahan can both make it through from Group C.

Group D leaders Piroozi Athletic of Iran can confirm their progression and in Group G, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Nagoya Grampus are in the box-seat as they lie three points clear of Tianjin Teda and Central Coast Mariners.

The final group games will be played on May 15 and 16 with the two-legged round of 16 starting a week later and concluding on May 30.

Source:
AFP
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