Uzbekistan coach Rauf Inileyev has downplayed the absence of China skipper Zheng Zhi and central defender Li Weifeng for Wednesday’s crunch AFC Asian Cup Group B encounter between the two sides, saying that the 2004 runners-up have more than adequate cover for the suspended duo.
Zheng and Li are both banned for the crucial clash at Shah Alam Stadium, which is likely to determine one of the top two spots in the group, after picking up their second yellow cards of the group stage against Iran on Sunday.
The Uzbeks need a win to progress to the quarter-finals and Inileyev believes that it will not be easy to get a result against the Chinese, even if they are missing two of their biggest names.
"In the China squad there are 23 players who are registered for the Asian Cup and I think that they have enough good players because they have such a large population to choose from," said the Uzbek coach.
"They will be missing two good players but I think that they have many more good players that they can still choose from.
"The problem of missing players is a common one for all teams since we are missing one suspended player ourselves. So I don’t think that it will be a big problem for China because they will have other good players to come in for the missing players."
Inileyev has a selection problem of his own with right back Islom Inomov also suspended for picking up two yellow cards. His place is likely to be taken by Anvar Gafurov, who has yet to play a minute in the tournament but has the confidence of his coach.
"We have to prepare very seriously for any match that we play and I am still trying to think what changes we will have to make," Inileyev said.
"But I intend to use the best players that we have available for tomorrow’s game because of the importance of the game and I will bring in a strong player to replace Inomov."
The Uzbeks were beaten 3-1 by China in a friendly in Macau four months ago but the Uzbeks do not want to read too much into that result.
"Right now our goal is just to qualify for the next round. We are not thinking of revenge for that game in Macau because when we played China in that game, we also had different goals," explained Inileyev.
"At that time, we were experimenting with players for the Asian Cup but tomorrow, the priority will be different as we want to advance in the tournament."
The Uzbeks won the only previous meeting between the two teams at the Asian Cup with a 2-0 win in the United Arab Emirates in 1996.