Soccer: Evergrande facing historic challenge against SIPG
By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Guangzhou Evergrande will need to make history on Tuesday if they are to maintain their pursuit of a clean sweep of trophies when they face Shanghai SIPG in the second leg of the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League.
SIPG thrashed Evergrande 4-0 in Shanghai last month and the two-time champions host the return meeting knowing no team has overturned a four-goal deficit in the quarter-finals.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's Evergrande currently lead the Chinese Super League standings by eight points from SIPG while the teams are also due to meet in the second leg of the Chinese FA Cup later in the month, with SIPG holding a 2-1 advantage.
But with Evergrande welcoming back seven players from the China national team who were eliminated from qualifying for the World Cup last week, Scolari believes his team now may have an advantage.
"SIPG and Evergrande have the same problem with fatigue," said Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning coach after their 3-1 win over Changchun Yatai in the Chinese Super League on Friday.
"However, Evergrande creates the basis of the national team, so we are the most influential team in the country. Now the national team's mission has come to an end we can finally have a full training session together."
Hulk scored the first-leg opener for Andre Villas-Boas' side, joining Al Ain's Omar Abdulrahman as the tournament's leading scorer with seven goals, before Wang Shenchao and a Wu Lei double gave SIPG the chance to make their first ACL semi-finals.
Evergrande, meanwhile, are aiming to claim the title for the third time in five seasons having previously won the continental crown in 2013 and 2015.
The winner will face Japanese opposition in the semi-finals, with Kawasaki Frontale holding a 3-1 advantage from the first leg over fellow J.League side Urawa Red Diamonds.
Urawa, winners of the title in 2007, hold what could be a precious away goal thanks to Yuki Muto's strike, even if Toru Oniki's Kawasaki have the upper hand after two goals from Yu Kobayashi and one from Elsinho.
In the western half of the draw, Gulf heavyweights Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal will meet in Riyadh after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.
Al Ain, who won the inaugural Asian Champions League back in 2003, are aiming to advance to the semi-finals for the third time in four years while Al Hilal are seeking their first ACL title since 2000.
The winner will meet either Iran's Persepolis or Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli in the semi-finals.
Al Ahli hold a slender advantage from the first leg after the teams drew 2-2 in Persepolis's 'home' game, which was held in Oman.
Both matches of the quarter-final are in neutral venues due to diplomatic tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)