Elkeson can be difference-maker at Tianhe, says Paulinho
Guangzhou: Star midfielder Paulinho believes naturalised China PR forward Elkeson may be the man who can re-ignite Guangzhou Evergrande's 2019 AFC Champions League final hopes ahead of Wednesday's semi-final second leg against Urawa Red Diamonds.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Japan after goals from Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine, two-time Continental champions Guangzhou are up against it when they host Urawa at Tianhe Stadium in the return meeting of their final four tie.
However, the southern Chinese heavyweights have not yet lost hope. A 21-match unbeaten record in the AFC Champions League on home soil is an excellent foundation for faith and a stacked attacking line-up including some of China and Brazil's top talent is capable of finding the goals needed.
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Among those whom the Guangzhou supporters will look to most keenly is Elkeson. The Brazil-born forward recently made headlines after becoming a naturalised Chinese national and debuting for the representative side in the Asian Qualifiers.
Before this focus on his international aspirations, however, Elkeson had already long proven himself a big-game player in Asia, particularly at Tianhe Stadium.
Upon joining Guangzhou ahead of the 2013 AFC Champions League quarter-finals, the then 24-year-old went on a tear of six goals in six appearances including what was effectively the match-winner in the final.
🙌 A legend is born 🏆 🏆— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) August 15, 2019
🇧🇷’s Elkeson’s 1️⃣st AFC Champions League goal for Guangzhou Evergrande came in the 2013 quarter-finals. pic.twitter.com/bkLzEmYphH
Two years later, he repeated his exploits. This time scoring the only goal in the Continental climax against Al Ahli of the UAE. Since then, a three-and-half season spell at Shanghai SIPG came to an end this summer when he returned to Guangzhou and countryman Paulinho feels that in the familiar surrounds of Tianhe, Elkeson could rediscover his form.
"Elkeson is a player with a lot of quality, and he knows the teammates, the team and the club very well," said Paulinho, who was also part of the side that lifted the 2015 Continental title.
"As a centre-forward, he scores a lot of goals to help our team, and his goals can often decide important games [like the match with Urawa].
"All of us are very pleased he's back at Guangzhou Evergrande, he's got a great personality off the pitch, too - he's a big joker - and he gives the team a big boost."
Guangzhou's proud history in the AFC Champions League has often had a Brazilian flavour to complement their Chinese stars.
Among the likes of current names Anderson Talisca and Paulinho are 2015 MVP and Top Scorer Ricardo Goulart, 2013 MVP and Top Scorer Muriqui, and FIFA World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who helmed the side to the 2015 title.
While current Italian coach Fabio Cannavaro, like Scolari, is also a World Cup winner, Paulinho believes there are few similiarities.
"For me, Scolari and Cannavaro are two totally different types of managers," he says. "They have two totally different types of mentalities, different ways of playing.
"I’ve played for Scolari for many years, but just 1.5 years for Cannavaro. Technically, tactically and in their mentality they are totally different types of managers."
Nevertheless, Paulinho does believe that there is one significant aspect that the two coaches have in common, one that could hold Guangzhou in good stead for Wednesday's clash.
"Scolari has that mentality of a winner; proved with many titles so far," he added. "Of course, Scolari has had a much longer career as a professional manager, while Cannavaro is in the beginning of his career.
"But I believe Cannavaro is a winner as well. In the future, he will win many important titles."
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