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Baptism of fire - Kitchee kick off Asian campaign

Sports | Feb 13, 2018
Kitchee will take on Tianjin Quanjian tonight looking to make a good impression in their Asian Champions League debut.

The Hong Kong champions expect to encounter tough opposition in chilly conditions in Tianjin but a run of three consecutive wins in domestic matches gives them confidence for the Group E opener.

"For the two competing sides, this will be their first game in the group stage and therefore ... will have a well thought out game plan," midfielder Lam Ka-wai said.

"We have been preparing specifically for this game over the past week and have certain tactics developed. Hopefully, we can all play up to our potential and come up with a decent result."

Striker Diego Forlan was signed up specifically for this continental campaign, and the former Uruguay and Manchester United star appears to be hitting form at just the right time after almost two years away from the game. Forlan, 38, has scored five goals in four games with Kitchee.

Forward Fernando Pedreira said the players are in high spirits and capable of coping with the chilly weather.

In Tianjin, Kitchee will be up against a side who finished third in last season's Chinese Super League. Boasting the likes of Brazilian Alexandre Pato, Belgian Axel Witsel and Frenchman Anthony Modeste, Tianjin beat Ceres Negros of the Philippines 2-0 in a playoff for a group-stage place.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea and Japan's Kashiwa Reysol are the other teams in the group.

Guangzhou Evergrande, coached by Fabio Cannavaro, and Shanghai SIPG, led by record signing Oscar, spearhead a four-pronged assault at the title by mainland teams.

Evergrande, Asian champions in 2013 and 2015, open their campaign at home to Thailand's Buriram United tomorrow in Group G.

Oscar, a 60-million-euro (HK$575.7 million) signing a year ago, is looking for a first trophy with SIPG after they crashed out in the semi-finals last season under Andre Villas-Boas, having beaten Evergrande in the quarter-finals.

Villas-Boas has been replaced at SIPG by fellow Portuguese Vitor Pereira. He gets the first test of his management at Japan's Kawasaki Frontale today.

Shanghai Shenhua, minus expensive misfit Carlos Tevez who has returned to Argentina, complete the Chinese quartet with Wu Jingui in charge for their first group-stage match since 2011.

But they face a tough baptism at Japan's Kashima Antlers in Group H, which also sees Sydney host Suwon Bluewings.

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