China's Guangzhou eye Asian knock-outs
Deep-pocketed Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande can reach the AFC Champions League knock-outs on debut 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.
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."
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.
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