Scolari looking for elusive Asian title as Guangzhou Evergrande opens quarterfinals



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SEOUL, South Korea — Guangzhou Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has a point to prove after past failures in the Asian Champions League, and with his star studded Chinese team in fine form, there is much to be confident about going into the quarterfinals.

The 2002 World Cup winning coach was hired by Uzbekistan's Bunyokdor in 2009 charged with delivering the continental crown. The Tashkent team was eliminated at the 2009 quarterfinals and only made it as far as the second round in 2010 before the Brazilian left.

Scolari returned to Asia in June to succeed Fabio Cannavaro as coach of Guangzhou, a team that has won the last four Chinese Super League titles and the 2013 Asian Champions League.

"The last time I fought on this stage was in 2010, but now the strangeness and equally the familiarity is coming back to me following my experience with Bunyodkor," Scolari was quoted on the Asian Football Confederation's official website. "I'm excited to be back with a team like Guangzhou. Guangzhou have a strong squad full of top players."

Guangzhou is regarded as the front runner among the eight teams remaining in the tournament, especially after strengthening its squad in the summer with the signing Brazilian internationals Paulinho and Robinho.

Robinho has taken time to adjust in China, but scored twice on Friday as Guangzhou, currently second in the Chinese Super League, defeated Shanghai Shenxin 4-2.

The new additions joined Ricardo Goulart, another Brazilian international, who is the top scorer in this year's continental tournament with eight goals. Guangzhou has also gathered a number of Chinese internationals spending over $100 million on players since 2010.

A trip to Kashiwa Reysol for the first leg on Tuesday will not be easy, but Guangzhou has memories of an 8-1 aggregate win over the Japanese team in the 2013 semifinals when the Chinese team, under Marcello Lippi, went on to win the title.

"Kashiwa Reysol are not a weak side and we must pay 100 percent attention and give 100 percent effort against them as they deserve to be at this stage in the competition," Scolari said.

Kashiwa is the only team from the eastern half of the draw, the tournament is split into east and west Asia until the final, never to have won the Asian Champions League.

The other game in the region sees the South Korean and Japanese champions meet, with Jeonbuk Motors looking to overcome Gamba Osaka for a first continental win since 2006.

Jeonbuk striker Lee Dong-gook, 35, is the tournament's highest ever scorer with 27 goals in the tournament, and is fit after recently recovering from injury.

"We are ready for Gamba and we want to win the first leg at home without conceding a goal." said the former English Premier League forward. "We will do our best to take an advantage to Japan for the second leg."

In the west, 2014 runner up Al Hila of Saudi Arabia takes on Qatar's Lekhwiya. Michael Laudrup led Lekhwiya to the Qatar league title earlier this year only to step down in June.

In the remaining quarterfinal, Iranian newcomer Naft Tehran meets United Arab Emirates club Al Ahli.

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