SINGAPORE - Guangzhou Evergrande goal-machine Muriqui paid tribute to "world-class" manager Marcello Lippi as the runaway Chinese leaders prepared to resume their quest for Asian glory on Wednesday.
Brazil's Muriqui, top-scorer in the AFC Champions League with eight goals, said the Chinese champions had matured under the World Cup-winning Italian as they look to reach the tournament's semi-finals for the first time.
Guangzhou, 14 points clear in China's Super League, host Qatar's Lekhwiya in the first leg of the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
"I believe this season Guangzhou are stronger than last year because we are more stable, mature and confident," said Muriqui.
"We gained valuable experience from our first season in the AFC Champions League, which will help us to pay attention and overcome any disadvantages and defeat our opponents in the competition, especially against West Asian teams.
"And we have a world-class coaching team. Marcello Lippi is one of the best coaches in the world and he brings with him advanced training and tactical theory to Guangzhou Evergrande.
"As a rigorous team manager, he infects a winning faith into every Evergrande player and assists the team to become stronger and stronger."
Chinese teams have struggled to make an impression at this level with Liaoning's victory in the 1990 Asian Club Championship the country's only success so far in a continental club tournament.