AFC Champions League Preview: Kashiwa Reysol v Guangzhou Evergrande
By Football News
Guangzhou Evergrande have their sights set on a treble as they take on Kashiwa Reysol in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday.
Marcello Lippi's men are 11 points clear at the summit of the Chinese Super League and still in contention to win the FA Cup ahead of their first-leg clash away to Japanese opposition.
They are the first Chinese team to reach the final four of the tournament since 2005, seeing off the threat of Qatari outfit Lekhwiya with a 6-1 win on aggregate in the last eight.
Guangzhou will look to go one better than Shenzhen Ruby did eight years ago and they have had ample time to prepare after their FA Cup meeting away to Beijing Guoan, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed.
The league leaders were also due to face Liaoning Whowin last weekend but that match was likewise rescheduled.
"This is a week that's very welcome for our team," Lippi said.
"It's very important for us to have time to recuperate physically and psychologically."
J-League side Kashiwa did not have the same luxury, though, and played out a 1-1 draw with Cerezo Osaka on Sunday, with Masato Kudo's opener cancelled out by Yoichiro Kakitani.
Nelsinho Baptista's team, who won the league title in 2011, have not had a strong campaign and sit 10th, but they have been buoyed by an impressive campaign from 23-year-old Kudo, who has scored 16 goals.
The striker netted in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final versus Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab, which ended 1-1, with Naoya Kondo's strike and an own goal sealing their progress on away goals after a 2-2 draw in the return match.
They will face a sterner test against Guangzhou, though, with the teams having met over two legs in the competition last year, which saw the Chinese side clinch their home tie 3-1.
The reverse fixture was slightly more promising for Kashiwa as they held their opponents to a goalless draw.