Zhu Guanghu is facing selection problems ahead of Wednesday’s crucial Group C clash against Uzbekistan but the China coach is confident that the 2004 runners-up have the quality to prevail and reach the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup for a seventh consecutive time.
Skipper Zheng Zhi and central defender Li Weifeng are suspended for the match at Shah Alam Stadium while goalkeeper Li Leilei and midfielders Zheng Bin and Zhou Haibin are looking recovering from injuries.
However, coach Zhu expects his side to overcome their difficulties and secure a place in this weekend’s quarter-finals.
"After two matches, we have some players suspended and some players injured but we have got 23 players who have the ability to play good football," said the former Shenzhen Jianlibao boss, whose team only need a draw to progress.
"We are fully prepared for this match. We expect Uzbekistan to cause us a lot of difficulties but we are ready for them.
"We have a number of excellent players and some of them didn’t play in the first two matches. Their condition is even better so I might make some changes to our formation tomorrow and I believe it will be a good match."
After an indifferent build-up to the Asian Cup, Zhu feels that his side are clicking into gear at the right time
"Our aim here is to reach the semi-finals. It was a goal that was set before the tournament and after two matches, I believe our team is in better condition now and we are very confident that we can achieve this," he said.
"We didn’t win our last match but I think that we are playing better and better each game and I expect that in our next game, we will play even better than before."
Attacking midfielder Shao Jiayi does admit that Zheng and Li will be missed by the rest of the team but he remains confident that the Chinese can progress with a positive result against the Uzbeks.
"Of course the absence of Zheng Zhi and Li Weifeng will definitely affect our team in the next match as they have played a very important role in the team for our last two matches," said the Energie Cottbus player.
"In particular, I have been operating very well on the pitch with Zheng Zhi and his absence is a pity, not only for me but for the whole team.
"But after two matches we are doing a better job and hopefully in tomorrow’s match, we will get a good result.
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.