International break disrupts Scolari’s Guangzhou plans for ACL final with Al Ahli

China’s desperation to improve on the international level is playing havoc with Guangzhou Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Asian Champions League aspirations.

Guangzhou Evergrande secured a goalless draw in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final in Dubai. Ali Haaider / EPA
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China’s desperation to improve on the international level is playing havoc with Guangzhou Evergrande coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Asian Champions League aspirations.

The 2002 World Cup-winning coach arrived in Guangzhou in June to succeed Fabio Cannavaro and, last week, took the big-spending club to Dubai for a 0-0 draw on Saturday against Al Ahli in the first leg of the 2015 Asian Champions League final.

The second leg takes place in Guangzhou on November 21. That would usually provide plenty of time to prepare, especially as the Chinese domestic season ended in October with a fifth successive domestic title for the star-studded Evergrande, but Scolari has a major headache.

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China coach Alain Perrin has included eight Guangzhou players in his 23-man squad ahead of two vital Group C World Cup qualifiers, against Bhutan in Changsa tomorrow and in Hong Kong five days later.

“After we return to Guangzhou, I must first wait 12 or 13 days for the players to come back from the national team as they must first play for the national team and then I will make adjustments then begin preparations for the second leg of the Champions Cup final,” Scolari said after the first leg in Dubai.

Guangzhou will also be without star defender Kim Yong-gwon, who was called up to the South Korean national team.

In this, the second and penultimate round of World Cup qualification in Asia, only the winner of each of the eight groups can be certain of a place in the final round. They will be joined by the best four runners-up. These 12 nations will compete for the continent’s four automatic spots at the 2018 World Cup.

China’s chances of finishing first look remote. They are already eight points behind group leaders Qatar, although they have four games remaining, one more than the 2022 World Cup hosts.

After hosting Bhutan in a game that even the unpredictable China are expected to win comfortably, Perrin takes his men to the former British colony of Hong Kong for a high-pressure, high-profile game at a time when political relations between the mainland and its Special Administrative Region are uneasy.

The teams drew 0-0 in China in September and tensions have risen after Hong Kong fans booed the Chinese national anthem at a number of recent games.

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