Scolari set to finish China stint with another title

By JOHN DUERDEN

Associated Press

Luiz Felipe Scolari wants to end his time in China by taking Guangzhou Evergrande to a seventh successive Chinese Super League title.

Scolari is leaving next month, and another title - his third - would be the perfect way to say goodbye. The 2002 World Cup-winning coach arrived in China in June 2015, when the money splurged on high-profile coaches and players in the league was dramatically escalating.

He leaves with the southern China club still at the top. With just three games of the season remaining this season, Guangzhou is six points clear of second-place Shanghai SIPG in second. The title could be delivered as early as Sunday if Guangzhou Evergrande beats Guizhou and Shanghai fails to beat Guangzhou R&F.

"We are in a good position but there is still work to do," Scolari said. "The focus is on getting the points we need in the remaining games."

The Brazilian mentor seems to have seen off the challenge from a fellow ex-Chelsea coach. Andre Villas-Boas is coming to the end of a first season in charge of Shanghai SIPG, the only team capable of stopping Guangzhou's title run.

The two big-spending clubs have developed a fierce rivalry that was heightened as Shanghai beat Guangzhou in the quarterfinal of the Asian Champions League last month.

After the game in Guangzhou, Villas-Boas accused the hosts of trying to disrupt his team's preparations and staging a series of car accidents to delay Shanghai's journey to the stadium.

"Two cars separately had three accidents in front of us. This club can cause accidents," Villas-Boas said.

Shanghai only lasted another round in the continental competition, losing at the semifinal stage this week to Urawa Reds of Japan.

Villas-Boas, 40, has been criticized by some fans for relying too much on expensive foreign stars such as Hulk and Oscar, the high-profile Brazilians signed for a combined total of over $100 million in 2016.

Still, if he can deliver at least one piece of silverware - Shanghai SIPG meets city rival Shanghai Shenhua in the China FA Cup final next month - many of the fans will forgive such tactics.

"Our dreams are still alive for a trophy this season, but unfortunately we have missed out on the big one this year," he said after the Asian Champions League exit on Wednesday.

It may be too late for Shanghai to win a first league title this season but there is always 2018. It remains to be seen if Villas-Boas keeps his job as well as who succeeds Scolari at Guangzhou.

Evergrande has a habit of hiring big-name coaches, especially of the Italian variety. Marcello Lippi led Guangzhou to three titles from 2012 to 2014 and the man who led Italy to the 2006 World Cup was succeeded by Fabio Cannavaro, captain of that victorious Italian team.

Earlier this week, Scolari recommended another ex-Chelsea coach, Carlo Ancelotti, as his replacement.

Ancelotti, who won the UEFA Champions League with AC Milan and Real Madrid, is available after being fired by German giant Bayern Munich in September.

"If Ancelotti is offered the opportunity to come to Guangzhou, he should consider grasping it," Scolari said. "Evergrande is a fantastic club, with a great working environment. Not only for Ancelotti, Evergrande is a good destination for any coach who is linked with the club."

Updated October 20, 2017