China's foothold in the region has slipped a bit in the past twelve months but head coach Marcello Lippi believes Team Dragon can beat any team in Asia on their day.
On the eve of their international friendly match against India, Lippi revealed how he had to maintain a balance in the squad given the players' club commitments. They also face Syria in another friendly three days after the India game.
"Right now, the end of Chinese Super League (CSL) season is drawing near, and the competition is furious since teams are fighting for various purposes like ensuring safety from relegation, winning the championship etc.
"As a result, we are going through a really difficult time, because our players have to keep a balance between CSL games and an eye on the Asian Cup being held in January next year. They have to be prepared for the national team (as well)", said the 70-year-old.
Lippi coached his native Italy to victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup but has failed to achieve outstanding results with China. In 2018 alone, the national team has managed to score only four times in six games.
Furthermore, the September international window was unproductive given they lost 1-0 to Qatar and were held by Bahrain on the road. Lippi, however, was unconcerned by the lack of goals from his team.
When asked if India, a team 21 spots below China in the FIFA Rankings would help reverse that trend, the former AFC Champions League- winning replied, "It's not that India is a weak team and we will start scoring a lot of goals.
"Our focus is on making adjustments and not scoring. The Asian Cup is approaching and we have to adjust the state of our attack better. Based on our competitiveness, as long as we have enough desire to win within Asia, we can get over any opponent, but the key point is to closely work together. So, how many goals we score doesn't matter, what matters is we can win the game."
Defensive midfielder Chi Zhongguo still hasn't recovered from his injury. With Zheng Zhi also sidelined, the doors might open up for Zhao Xuri in midfield. "Currently there are three players who have slight injuries - captain Zheng Zhi, He Chao and Zhongguo.
"Therefore, they won't play against India, for I also take their club careers into consideration and I won't risk them for the sake of the national team, because I know if I do so, their injuries may become serious and have to be on the bench for a month. In this case, it can be a loss for both clubs and the national team," concluded Lippi.
The match kicks off at 5:05 PM IST at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province.