Preview: Guangzhou Evergrande vs Urawa Red Diamonds

Reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande will be looking to get their AFC Champions League campaign back on track when they face Urawa Red Diamonds on Wednesday.

Guangzhou have struggled to make an impact in the opening stages of the 2016 edition as they were held to a goalless draw by Pohang Steelers in their AFC Champions League opener before being stunned 2-1 by Sydney FC.

Urawa too are looking to bounce back as they were beaten 1-0 by Pohang in their most recent AFC Champions League fixture.

As a result, Urawa currently sit in second place on the Group G standings with three points, while Guangzhou are in last place with one point.

The J-League club will be without forward Ishihara Naoki who has been suspended for two AFC Champions League matches for elbowing a player during his side’s loss to Pohang. In addition to the suspension, Naoki was also fined US$ 5,000. Defender Mitsuru Nigata is also out through suspension.

Guangzhou meanwhile will be without the services of defenders Zhang Linpeng and Kim Young-gwon who are nursing injuries.

While Guangzhou lost their most recent AFC Champions League encounter, they head into the clash on the back of a 3-0 victory over Changchun Yatai, a result which saw them rise to eighth place on the Chinese Super League standings. Despite there success over the weekend, head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admitted that his side will be pushed to their limit in their match against Urawa.

“This is a very tough group so there is a chance that we won’t qualify. You can’t make it if you don’t do well enough,” he said. “There is no guarantee of winning in football. But everyone must try their hardest because they signed a contract with the club so they must play at their best. And as the coach, my job is to bring the best out of them.”

Urawa too were victorious in domestic action over the weekend, as they beat Avispa Fukuoka 2-0 on Saturday, and currently sit in second place on the J-League standings.

While Urawa have the better AFC Champions League record heading into Wednesday’s meeting, coach Mihailo Petrovic has urged his side not to let their guard down.

“We both lost our second ACL group matches so the game is crucial to both teams,” he said. “I know Guangzhou is a team with quality who is experiencing some difficulties at the moment, but I can assure you it will be a tough encounter.

“Guangzhou have invested a lot of money; Chinese teams are like J-League teams 20 years ago when we imported lots of world class players. However, we are also a strong team and will try our best. We are targeting a win.”

Heading into the match, Urawa will have to keep their eye on Guangzhou striker Ricardo Goulart who was the top scorer in the competition last year with eight goals.

Guangzhou meanwhile will have to watch out for Urawa forward Muto Yuki who scored in his side’s 2-0 win over Sydney FC.

This will be the second meeting between the two sides, with each club having claimed a victory.

Coverage of the match at the Tianhe Sport Center gets underway at 19:15 HKT on FOX Sports 3.

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