Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is wary of Guangzhou Evergrande’s threat ahead of Tuesday’s Club World Cup semifinal.
Bayern want to crown their record-breaking year by adding to the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal trophies with the Club World Cup trophy on Saturday.
But before Bayern team can head to Marrakesh to play the final on Saturday must overcome the challenge of playing the Asian Champions in Agadir on Tuesday night.
The Chinese side are coached by former World Cup-winning Italy Marcello Lippi, who became the first coach to lift both the Champions League trophy as well as its Asian counterpart, and Guardiola is looking forward to facing him.
"It’s an honour to play against him. He has won everything with Juventus” Guardiola told a news conference in Agadir on Monday. "When a team coached by an Italian is the outsider, they are at their most dangerous."
Guardiola warned his team not to think too far ahead, saying: "It is important to understand just how important this tournament is. From a mental point of view the first game is the most difficult, even more difficult than the final. I will try and get that into the heads of my players."
The former Barcelona coach took charge of Bayern in the summer of 2013, after his predecessor Jupp Heynckes had won the Treble in his last season as the Bayern coach and he expressed his gratitude to Heynckes for the blueprint he put in place.
"It would be better if Jupp Heynckes was here," Guardiola said. "I had no share in winning the Champions League title last season. I want to win that title. That’s my wish for the club and players."
Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer also talked up the semifinal clash against Guanzghou, who qualified for the semis with a 2-0 against the African champions Al-Ahly on Saturday.
"They are a very good team, with two or three incredibly strong South Americans. We’ll be prepared, and we’re not expecting it to be an easy match," he said.
Javi Martinez echoed Guardiola’s sentiment in an interview with AS, saying: "The difficulty about this Chinese team is they are coached by Lippi.
"They are serious, they know how to use the ball well. We cannot get distracted," he said.
The Spain international also dismissed the notion that Bayern were favourites to win the tournament, adding: "We are not favourites. We must play the semifinals and then, if we get through, the final. We never take for granted a win, never. Respect is one of the bases of Bayern."
Martinez also revealed how one of the foundations of Guardiola’s success is an attention to detail on the training pitch.
He said: "He is very demanding, he likes to be over everything to correct mistakes or to show us the correct way to do the training exercises. That is one of the keys of his success. He likes everything to come out well, to repeat actions as many times as needed. That just makes you better as a player, so [I am] really happy to do things this way."