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Cannavaro wants Guangzhou firing on all cylinders

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Saitama: Fabio Cannavaro has urged his Guangzhou Evergrande side to maintain the level of performances that have seen them secure their berth in the semi-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League, despite concerns over his team’s recent lack of goals.

Guangzhou take on Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Wednesday in the first leg of their last four clash with Cannavaro’s side in the midst of a minor slump as the two-time champions go into the meeting without a win in their last five games in all competitions.

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But despite their recent performances, which have seen them score just three goals in those five matches, Cannavaro stressed he was not concerned having steered the club to their first semi-final since 2015.

“It’s the semi-final and maybe a few months ago nobody would have expected this result,” said the Italian World Cup winner. “But we have made it to the semis. It’s going to be a tough match, but we are very confident. All the players are in good condition, both physically and mentally.

Quarter-final - 2nd Leg: Kashima Antlers vs Guangzhou Evergrande

“We are well prepared and we have trained very well this week. We are ready for the match. I believe we can put on a good performance and we’re going to try our best.

“We don’t need to worry about our attack, because if we look at the statistics in the AFC Champions League we remain the best team in both defence and on the offensive side. So what the players have to do is continue doing what they’ve been doing and be confident to play at their best level.”

Despite Cannavaro’s claims, both Guangzhou’s defence and attack have been inferior in this year’s AFC Champions League compared to Urawa, with Evergrande scoring 14 goals and conceding 10 while Urawa have found the net 16 times and allowed nine.

Guangzhou will also have to overcome a poor record at Saitama Stadium, where the seven-time Chinese Super League champions have lost on both of their previous visits to the 63,700-seater venue.

In four meetings between the clubs in the AFC Champions League, Guangzhou have won just once – a 3-0 victory at Tianhe Stadium in February 2013 – and Cannavaro knows his side cannot take Urawa lightly despite the Japanese side’s domestic struggles, which see them reside in 13th place in the current J.League standings.

“Urawa is one of the strongest teams in Asia,” he said. “They have lots of experience in the AFC Champions League and they have won the title twice. Even though they’re not doing too well in the J.League they’re in the semi-finals and that’s good for them.

“Their performances in the Champions League have been very good until now. I know a lot about this team, I know their players and I have watched their matches and I like the effort they put into their games.

“It’s a big motivation for us to play against them and it’s not going to be an easy match. It’s the first match of the semi-final and we both have the chance to go to the final.”

Guangzhou have already seen off Japanese opposition in this year’s AFC Champions League, with an Anderson Talisca header helping them defeat defending champions Kashima Antlers in the quarter-finals on the away goals rule.

And the former Juventus and Real Madrid defender stressed the importance of scoring in front of Urawa’s fans on Wednesday in his team’s quest for a place in next month’s final.

“At this stage what is important when you play away is that you can create chances to score, and if you can score a goal it’s very important for you because everyone knows how important an away goal is in such an important match, a semi-final,” he said.

“We will do our best. We came here to play our match, to create chances to score as we always do. We want to try our best to score a goal and to get a positive result from tomorrow’s match because it’s very important for us.”

Photos: AFP, AFC

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