AFC Champions League final, Guangzhou v Al Ahli – Who will win?
5 Reasons Guangzhou Will Win
1. This is Southeast Asia's representative
You can argue over the wisdom of splitting the Asian Champions League into two geographic zones – east and west – until the final, but it does mean that the showdown is a clear meeting between two separate halves. Guangzhou are representing East and Southeast Asia. As such Thai clubs and those of Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore, who enter the preliminary rounds for the 2016 tournament, should be cheering the Southern Dragons on. A home and away clash with the continental champions would be perfect motivation. Who knows? If things go well at the FIFA Club World Cup in December, Southeast Asia could even host the world champions in a competitive game of football – now that's a sentence that has never been written or said before!
2. Big Phil
Say no more. Grizzled old tactician Luiz Felipe Scolari has been around the block more than a few times in football terms, but is on the brink of adding the Asian Champions League to his 2002 World Cup victory with Brazil. Only one man has done that before, Marcello Lippi delivering the Asian title for Guangzhou in 2013 to add to his 2006 World Cup win with Italy. Scolari is nothing if not pragmatic and will not care about how the team wins; getting his hands on the trophy is all that matters. Asian glory would not banish the memories of that 2014 World Cup semi-final thrashing at the hands of Germany, but it would be very nice indeed.
3. The Fans
Al Ahli have never experienced anything like this. There will be 50,000 or so supporters at Guangzhou's Tianhe Stadium and you will have to search far and wide to find one not sporting a red shirt. Back in 2013, some of their fans went to watch final opponents FC Seoul training, shone lasers in the eyes of the Koreans and then called hotel rooms in the early hours of Saturday morning. The stadium will be full an hour before kick-off and the songs, the chants and the bouncing will not stop – unless Al Ahli score and even then the pause will be temporary. Every decision will be appealed, every tackle applauded and every advance over the halfway line cheered to the rafters.