Luiz Felipe Scolari not expecting perfect Evergrande performance
Guangzhou Evergrande will kick off their 2017 Asian Champions League campaign on Wednesday evening with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari expecting his team to make mistakes against Hong Kong's Eastern.
Evergrande, winners of the continental club championship in 2013 and 2015, had a disappointing performance last season, exiting the competition at the end of the group stage before going on to continue their domestic dominance.
Scolari's team won the Chinese Super League title for a record sixth time in a row as well as claiming the Chinese FA Cup, and the former Brazil coach is not underestimating the underdogs from Hong Kong.
"Tomorrow's match is very important and I think the key to win the match is to play at our normal level," the World Cup winner said.
"Of course the first official match will always be difficult and I think our players will make some mistakes, but by making these mistakes we can become stronger that's the most important thing.
"We're fully prepared for the match and during the last stage of training we had a chance to improve our stamina and took part in a friendly that will serve us well for tomorrow's match."
The game sees Scolari going up against Eastern coach Chan Yuen-ting, who became the first female coach in world football to win a league title with a men's professional team when she guided Eastern to the Hong Kong title last season.
But while Chan's appearance on the opposite bench will be a landmark moment in the competition's history, Scolari took a matter-of-fact approach to his counterpart.
"She is the head coach of the Hong Kong Eastern and I am the head of Evergrande," he said.
Guangzhou captain Zheng Zhi, meanwhile, cautioned against underestimating Eastern's abilities.
"Tomorrow our mind set will be very important," the midfielder said. "This match might seem easy for some of you, but not me or our coach. It's going to be quite difficult because it's our first match of the season.
"We have some knowledge of the strategy of Eastern and I don't think it's an easy draw at all. We know we have to compete if we hope to win and it's very important for us to get three points."
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch