Guangzhou Evergrande: inside word on Wanderers' ACL opponents

Our Asian football expert analyses Wanderers' opponents on Wednesday night, a Chinese power that home fans will remember well from last year's epic ACL quarter-finals.

Guangzhou Evergrande need no introduction to Australian football fans, a fact that is to be celebrated. It is perhaps the only Asian club that doesn't need any introduction anywhere - winning the AFC Champions League with Marcello Lippi at the helm helps to guarantee that.

Lippi's left now but the Italian, the only man to win the ultimate continental showpiece in Europe and Asia, hopes that he has left behind a dynasty.

He chose his successor in Fabio Cannavaro, his 2006 World Cup winning captain. As classy standing on the sidelines as was when marshalling the defence on the pitch in his pomp – though he still looks fit and young enough to play – Cannavaro is a big name but has big shoes to fill.

Lippi took over a team in May 2012 that was already champion but wanted more. The owners wanted success at home and abroad and the reputation that went with it. 

In some ways, appointing Lippi was an end in itself, instantly lifting the club's profile around the world. Appointing one of the most successful coaches in history put Guangzhou on the map and was a statement of intent.

Unsurprisingly, Lippi continued the success and added to it. By the time he stepped down as head coach at the end of last season, he had delivered a fourth successive Chinese Super League title. That, of course, went with the 2013 Asian title. If the Italian had one regret it could be that it was a solitary success, sandwiched by two quarter-final exits, both at the hands of opponents that Guangzhou felt it should have beaten.

The loss to Western Sydney Wanderers was especially painful and there have been some changes since. The Italian contingent on the pitch – Alessandro Diamanti and Albertino Gilardino -have returned to Europe after not really settling in southern China.

Instead, Cannavaro's foreign stars, apart from South Korean defender Kim Young-gwon, are Brazilian. Elkeson is still there, and as the striker averages almost a goal a game in the Chinese Super League and has just been handed a new four-year deal. 

It has however, added plenty more firepower though it is expected that Cannavaro will play more of a counter-attacking game than Lippi. There may be a hint of that this week.

There had been rumours at the end of 2014 that Guangzhou, spender of around $100 million in the previous four years to take a team from the second division to the Asian title, was about to rein in the renminbi.

The signing, that cost around $21.5 million, of Ricardo Goulart, one of Brazil's rising stars put paid to that and he paid back a small fraction of the fee with the only goal of the game against FC Seoul last week to get the 2015 Champions League off to a winning start. Another big money signing is Alan, another striker who averaged more than a goal every other game in Austria for Red Bull Salzburg.

The Chinese contingent is still strong though the club is not finding it as easy as it once did to attract all the best domestic talent as rivals have started investing too. But the likes of Gao Lin and Zheng Zhi are experienced even if Zhang Linpeng, one of the best defenders in Asia, is injured. All in all, seven members of China's 2015 AFC Asian Cup squad came from Guangzhou. This unit is experienced, talented and still hungry for success.

Revenge over Western Sydney Wanderers would be welcome too. It would be a great start for Cannavaro to win at the home of the continental champion and help alleviate memories of last August. 

The title holders need to watch out but then they knew that already, this is Guangzhou Evergrande.