Melbourne Victory to face Guangzhou, Tianjin

Melbourne Victory will reacquaint itself with Asia when it faces Chinese Super League (CSL) sides Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and Tianjin Teda in a two-match tour of China this June.

Melbourne Victory will reacquaint itself with Asia when it faces Chinese Super League (CSL) sides Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and Tianjin Teda in a two-match tour of China this June. Guangzhou Pharmaceutical

After nine seasons in China-s second tier, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical is currently enjoying its second consecutive Chinese Super League (CSL) campaign after winning promotion in 2007.

Based less than 120km from Hong Kong in southern China, Guangzhou was formed in 1954 as Guangzhou Football Team and was renamed Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Football Club in 2006 when Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Company Limited took over the club.

Trophies have been few and far between for Guangzhou, which made the final of the 1991 Chinese FA Cup and was then starved of success until it claimed the 2007 Chinese Jia League title, guaranteeing a spot in the CSL.

Imposing Honduras international Luis Ramirez was the Jia League-s top scorer in 2007 and continues to play a pivotal role for Guangzhou alongside Brazilian twin brothers Diego and Diogo, who both started their careers at Brazilian giant Sport Club Internacional. Chinese names Li Zhihai, Li Yan, Lu Lin and Xu Liang may sound foreign to Australian football fans, but quartet steered Guangzhou to a respectable seventh place in the 2008 CSL season, with 10 wins, 10 draws and 10 losses.

Guangzhou will host Melbourne Victory at YueXiuShan Stadium on Friday, 5 June.

YueXiuShan Stadium

YueXiuShan Stadium in downtown Guangzhou is the same multipurpose venue that hosted the Qantas Socceroos, including Melbourne Victory striker Archie Thompson, in its international friendly win against China in March 2007.

Guangzhou has maintained a strong record at YueXiuShan Stadium, winning and scoring three goals in each of its opening two home CSL matches this year, in addition to the eight it won last season. Victory can expect relatively warm conditions in Guangzhou, which has an estimated population of over 10 million, with an average high temperature of 31 degrees and an average low temperature of 24 degrees in June.

Xu Liang

Guangzhou paid a club record transfer fee to then Chinese Super League side Liaoning Hongyun for Xu Liang in January 2007 and has been duly rewarded, with the attacking midfielder scoring a flood of goals and the vice captaincy role since arriving at the club.

Xu Liang, 27, made his international debut in 2002 and has played a handful of international games since, however a strong start to the 2009 CSL season and a hat trick against arch rival Dalian Shide in April has put the free kick specialist back in national team contention. Tianjin Teda

Tianjin Teda is currently competing in its first AFC Champions League campaign after surprisingly finishing fourth on the 2008 CSL ladder behind traditional powerhouses Beijing Guoan, Shanghai Shenhua and Shandong Luneng.

Tianjin is competing alongside Central Coast Mariners in Asia-s premier club competition and is sitting third on the Group H table after four matches, with two draws, two losses and two games remaining.

Established in 1957, Tianjin was purchased by the Technology and Economic Developing Area (TEDA) in 1998 and won promotion to the CSL in the same year, with its only other major success being the 1960 Chinese FA Cup.

Brazilian forward Eber Luis has been a revelation since arriving in Tianjin last year, while former Italian international Damiano Tommasi and Sydney FC striker Mark Bridge, who is currently on loan in China, are the club-s key foreign imports. Tianjin has six Chinese players on its books with international experience, including skipper Wang Xiao and promising young midfielder Hao Junmin, who has made over 100 appearances for the club and represented China at last year-s Olympic Games.

Melbourne Victory will defend the Lord Mayor's Cup against Tianjin at TEDA Football Stadium on Sunday, 7 June.

TEDA Football Stadium

The 35000-capacity TEDA Football Stadium opened in 2004 and is located in the heart of Tianjin-s Technology and Economic Developing Area.

Tianjin won nine of its CSL 15 matches and scored in every appearance at TEDA Football Stadium last year, and has maintained an impressive record in 2009, winning two of its three opening CSL matches. Tianjin is less than 150km east of Beijing and will offer similar temperatures to Guangzhou, with an average high temperature of 30 degrees and an average low temperature of 18 degrees in June.

Eber Luis

After establishing himself in his homeland, Brazilian marksmen Eber Luis topped the CSL goal scorers chart in 2008, netting 14 in his first season with Tianjin despite missing eight games through suspension.

Eber Luis, 27, has quickly cemented himself as Tianjin's new hero and continues to prove a handful for opposition defences, with his 191cm frame providing a tough challenge for CSL defences.