This year’s AFC Champions League final is set for a thrilling finale with Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande locked at 2-2 with FC Seoul heading into the return leg on 9 November.
With so much at stake, needless to say, the Asian showdown throws up a series of interesting statistical highlights as FIFA.com discovers.
History is to be made regardless of the winners of this year's AFC Champions League, with Guangzhou Evergrande and FC Seoul both seeking their maiden title. The two sides are, surprisingly, among the less-experienced in the tournament. It marks only hosts Guangzhou's second appearance in the Asian flagship competition, while the K-League visitors boast one more continental appearance, having made it to the last eight in 2009 and 2011. An away victory at Guangzhou will see FC Seoul become the fifth K-League side to have their names engraved on the Asian trophy, after Jeonbuk Motors in 2006, Pohang Steelers in 2009, Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in 2010 and Ulsan Hyundai last year. For Guangzhou, the significance is even greater as they are seeking to end a 23-year long wait for a Chinese side to reign supreme in Asia, after Liaoning first did so in the 1990 Asian Club Championship.
Guangzhou manager Marcello Lippi should relish the chance of winning his second continental championship, having guided Juventus to the UEFA Champions League crown in 1996. Despite achieving a series of accomplishments including winning the FIFA World Cup™ at Germany 2006 with Italy, the AFC Champion League provides him with the opportunity to taste continental success beyond Europe.
Imported players are expected to continue their outstanding displays this season. For Guangzhou, Brazilian striking partners Muriqui and Elkeson have bagged 18 goals so far - more than half the team’s total. Argentinian playmaker Dario Conca, meanwhile, has emerged as the campaign's second best goal-scorer with eight goals. FC Seoul's top-striker Montenegrin Dejan Damjanovic extended his goal-scoring tally to six when he equalised with a precious late strike in the opening leg. The match's brightest star may, however, prove to be Japanese Sergio Escudero, who opened the scoring with a solo effort before provided the assist for Damjanovic.
Half a dozen players from the two teams harbour strong chances of playing in next year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil - all of whom will represent Korea Republic should they make it. FC Seoul's midfield trio in captain Ha Daesung, Ko Yohan, Yun Illok and defender Kim Chiwoo have figured recently for the Taeguk Warriors, while goalkeeper Kim Yongdae is hopeful of competing for at least a backup place to Jung Sung-Ryong. Guangzhou's central-back Kim Younggwon, meanwhile, looks likely to secure a place in Hong Myungbo's FIFA World Cup squad considering the fast progress he has made over recent years.
The new tournament goal-scoring record set by Guangzhou's Brazilian striker Muriqui. It is the first time a Chinese League player has dominated the top-marksmen's list since Hao Haidong in 2003 - the latter hit nine goals in the inaugural edition as his Dalian Shide reached the semi-finals. The next record-setter was Brazilian Leandro, who smashed home 10 times as Gamba Osaka claimed the Asian title almost unchallenged in 2008. It took only two years for his compatriot Ricardo Oliveira to break it, with the free-scoring hot-shot racking up a total of 12 goals although his Al Jazira failed to progress beyond the Round of 16.
Guangzhou are the tournament's best scorers, with 35 goals in just 11 games. The superior scoring-tally is well clear of FC Seoul who have found the net 22 times in total.