China PR seek to ride momentum

China PR will hope to ride a wave of optimism after Guangzhou Evergrande's breakthrough AFC Champions League win as they head into two make-or-break AFC Asian Cup qualifiers on Friday.

Chinese football received a long-awaited boost last week when Marcello Lippi's expensively assembled side edged FC Seoul to the country's first Asian title in 23 years.

Now the national team will take centre-stage at Xian's Shanxi Stadium as they face Indonesia and then Saudi Arabia on Friday and Tuesday.

China's campaign for Australia 2015 has not gone to plan so far with a loss in Saudi Arabia, a fortunate home win over Iraq and a disappointing 1-1 away draw with Indonesia.

The results have left them second in Group C, five points behind the Saudis and just one in front of Iraq, with their quest to reach an 11th straight Asian Cup in danger.

Caretaker coach Fu Bo, who replaced sacked former boss Jose Antonio Camacho, remains in charge despite last month's draw in Jakarta.

But China cannot afford another slip-up against the last-placed Indonesians if they hope to finish in one of the group's two automatic qualifying spots.

Former Celtic and Charlton Athletic midfielder Zheng Zhi, 33, who skippers both Guangzhou and China, said national duty was a different order to playing for his club.

"Playing for the national team is definitely the most important, even more so than club matches," said Zheng, a veteran of China's 3-1 Asian Cup final loss to Japan in 2004.

"For us, we're eager to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup. It's important for our national pride and Chinese football."

In a far better position are the Saudis, who host Iraq in Dammam on Friday needing only a draw to reach their ninth consecutive Asian Cup.

The UAE have maximum points in Group E and can go through with victory over Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi, while Group D leaders Bahrain will also advance if they beat Malaysia in Manama.