Muriqui determined to fire Guangzhou to ACL title

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 Muriqui leads the AFC Champions League scoring chart with 13 goals.

Muriqui leads the AFC Champions League scoring chart with 13 goals.

AFC Champions League leading scorer Muriqui has backed domestic champions Guangzhou Evergrande to end China's 23-year wait for just a second continental champion ahead of Saturday's final first leg against Korean counterparts FC Seoul at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

The 27-year-old has scored 13 goals in 12 appearances to propel Marcello Lippi's Guangzhou to the continental final for the first time, and with a third consecutive domestic crown already secured, the Brazilian has AFC Champions League success in his sights.

Guangzhou are seeking to hand China a first continental title since Liaoning won the 1990 Asian Club Championship with victory over Japan's Nissan FC, having already ended a 15-year wait for another finalist after Dalian Wanda lost the 1998 edition to Pohang Steelers.

"I am aware of the history of Chinese clubs in this competition and I hope that Guangzhou will not only become the next team from China to play in the final, but also win the championship," said Muriqui, who averages a goal just over every 82 minutes in the competition this season.

"It has been one of our goals to reach the AFC Champions League final and it is the number one thing that I have achieved in my professional career.

"If we became champions of Asia, it would be an extraordinary achievement for every player and it would be an amazing personal memory."

Muriqui has been able to return such impressive statistics despite being deployed as one of two wide players in Guangzhou's formidable attack, which also contains compatriot Elkeson and Argentinian playmaker Dario Conca as well as China international Gao Lin.

The South American trio have contributed all 14 of Guangzhou's goals in the four outings in the AFC Champions League leading up to the final, with Conca netting eight goals in his 12 appearances this campaign.

Elkeson has also quickly adapted to life at continental level with four goals in four games during the quarter-finals and semi-finals having been added to the squad midway through the campaign.

"I have been able to score a lot of goals in the AFC Champions League this season due to the strong support from the rest of the team," added Muriqui. "Conca and Elkeson give me a lot of support, and together with all the local players, goals will come naturally.

"Conca and Elkeson came from the same league as me so we know how to play together when attacking, and we are also good friends and that makes it fun as well. But every one of the local players is excellent and, as football is a team sport, we cannot play if someone is missing."

Korean champions FC Seoul stand in the way of Guangzhou's pursuit of history, with the first leg taking place in Seoul on Saturday ahead of the return fixture in China two weeks later.

"To have reached the final, FC Seoul must be a strong team to have already eliminated teams from Saudi Arabia and Iran," said Muriqui. "I don't really know a lot about their individual players, but I believe our head coach will make a plan to beat them."

Muriqui joined the then-second division Guangzhou midway through the 2010 season from Atletico Mineiro in his native Brazil and scored just under a goal a game as the southern Chinese side earned an instant return to the top flight.

He went on to score 16 goals as Guangzhou won the Chinese Super League title for the first time in 2011, with the Brazilian earning the top goalscorer award as well as being named Chinese Super League Player of the Year.

Muriqui missed the second leg of Guangzhou's AFC Champions League quarter-final defeat by Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad last year due to injury, but still managed 12 goals in 20 appearances as Lippi's side retained the Chinese Super League crown.

"Since I joined Guangzhou we have been stronger overall and more consistent, we also are better at controlling the game," added Muriqui, who scored three goals in eight appearances for Guangzhou during the 2012 AFC Champions League campaign.

"We played in the AFC Champions League last year and learned how to make sure we win this season."

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