China international forward Gao Lin said Chinese fans need Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao to win the AFC Champions League final.
Guangzhou welcome Emirati visitors Al Ahli to Tianhe Stadium for Saturday’s return leg, with the decider still up for grabs.
The 10 men of Al Ahli held on for a goalless draw in the opening game on November 7.
Guangzhou are now facing a make-or-break 90 minutes on home soil and Gao insisted the Chinese champions carry the hopes of a nation as they bid to add to their 2013 continental title.
“The Chinese fans need a team like Guangzhou Evergrande to win the AFC Champions League title,” said Gao.
“We all know that Chinese football is slowly developing, but victory in this game will give it a big push. This way we can build confidence in the Chinese players as well as fans in China; and they will not lose any hope in Chinese football.
“A lot of Chinese fans are supporting us to win on Saturday and we have a chance to reward that faith.”
Al Ahli – competing in their first Champions League final – will be without right-back Abdulaziz Husain for the trip to Guangzhou.
Husain was sent off after lashing out at substitute Gao in an off-the-ball incident in the 84th minute in Dubai.
Al Ahli defender Salmin Khamis, though, remains optimistic about his team’s chances of claiming silverware.
“This is the first time we have reached the final and so we were quite cautious in the first half in Dubai, but in the second period we dominated proceedings but we couldn’t score,” said Khamis via the Asian Football Confederation’s official website.
“Things would have been different going into the second leg had we scored, but eventually we still got a good result.
“However, I hope that we can have a better performance in China and win the AFC Champions League title.”