Preview - Group C: Korea Republic v China PR
Abu Dhabi: Korea Republic may have Son Heung-min available but China PR will not let that affect their focus when the two regional rivals meet in a winner-takes-all AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Group C clash at the Al Nahyan Stadium on Wednesday.
The East Asian sides go into the clash with perfect records, having beaten Kyrgyz Republic and Philippines in their earlier matches, and a draw would mean China PR topping the group on goal difference.
Both nations are likely to rotate their teams with the knockout stage looming but the aim, said China PR head coach Marcello Lippi and Paulo Bento - his Korea Republic counterpart - will still be to win.
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"It is important for the team's momentum that we continue performing well. Korea are a top team and Son is just one of many good players they have. If we are to stop Korea Republic, it must be as a team and that is what I have been stressing to the players," said Lippi.
China PR go into the tie having beaten Kyrgyz Republic 2-1 and Philippines 3-0, while Korea Republic registered 1-0 wins over both teams.
Lippi said his team selection would depend on the condition of his players.
"I will rest players who are nursing injuries and yes, Wu Lei will not play as I do not want to risk it. He is recovering but I will leave him out as a precaution," said Lippi.
The Shanghai SIPG player, who scored two goals in China PR's win over Philippines on Matchday Two, is nursing a collarbone injury.
"Having said that, I will not be changing 11 players for the Korea Republic match. We have qualified but it is very important for our confidence to play a good match against Korea.
"They are one of the strongest teams in Asia and are one of the favourites to win the Asian Cup. The condition of my players will determine who starts but our target will be the same - a win."
A win would mean top spot in Group C, setting the stage for a last 16 match against the best third-placed team from either Groups A, B or F but Lippi said he isn't overly concerned about who China PR meet.
"We already know that if we finish second, we will play Thailand. If we win the group, we have to wait to see who our opponents will be. It doesn't matter to us as whoever we face will probably be of the same standard as Thailand."
Korea Republic head coach Bento said a decision on whether Son would play would only be made on Wednesday.
"Of course we know how many matches he has played the last (few) months. We also know that he is a very important player for our team.
"He has a second training session with the team later today and we will see how he fares before deciding. For that matter, any changes that we make to the team will not be because we are resting players but it will be for our strategy," said Bento.
Tottenham Hotspur forward Son arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday after a hectic 2018 for club and country, which also saw him playing in Korea Republic's Asian Games triumph.
China PR, said Bento, had a slight advantage going into the match as they only need a draw to seal top spot.
"They are a very good team with a very good coach who knows Asian football very well. China PR will want to win the group and so do we and this means it will be a very good match."
Korea Republic will go into the match unbeaten since Bento took charge after the 2018 FIFA World Cup but an interesting stat is that the Taeguk Warriors have not beaten China PR in their last two meetings.
"As I said, they are a good side and to win, we must take risks," said the former Portugal manager.
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