Guangzhou Evergrande marched clear at the Chinese Super League’s summit with a seven-point advantage after a 3-1 win over second-placed Beijing Guoan on Sunday.
Guangzhou took the lead through Paulinho in the 10th minute, but his effort was cancelled out seven minutes later by Zhang Yuning.
The visitors regained the lead in the second half through Elkeson and then Yang Liyu and held the advantage to the end despite Beijing’s efforts.
The Clarets gained a precious away goal in the first leg of the last 16 clash in Saudi Arabia last week as the two sides drew 1-1 in Riyadh. Abderrazak Hamdallah had given hosts Nassr the lead in the 17th minute at King Fahd International Stadium.
But lethal Leonardo’s ninth goal of the campaign in the 53rd minute was the key as it gave Maurice Steijn’s side the perfect cushion to take back to Al Nahyan Stadium.
But Argentine veteran Tagliabue has warned his team-mates that the tie is far from over.
“Of course the game is not finished. There’s still 90 minutes to play and Al Nassr will come very hard at us, as will we,” the 34-year-old told Sport360 ahead of the second leg in Abu Dhabi on Monday evening (19:40 kick-off).
“We also want to win and pass into the next round. It’s a very important game for us. We are ready and we will play at 100 per cent.”
If the Clarets are to progress it would be a huge statement from them and new manager Steijn, who has been at the helm barely a month after being announced as Henk ten Cate’s successor.
They are also in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in well over a decade – the last time they played a game beyond the group was way back in 2007.
On that occasion Wahda made it all the way to the semi-finals, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Iran’s Sepahan, who would go on to lose 3-1 to Japan’s Urawa Reds in the final.
Nassr are also reigning Saudi Pro League champions but Tagliabue believes they will be feeling the pressure – not to mention the heat – when they head to Abu Dhabi.
“It will be noisy because Al Nassr is a big team. They play good football, but I think it will be much different here than in the first half there,” said Tagliabue, referred to affectionately among Wahda fans as ‘Tigali’, and who is heading into his seventh season at the club.
“They played a very high level in the first half and in the second they were very tired. I think here they will be very tired too with the weather, so we have to take advantage of that.
“I think it was a good result and good game. We played a good game and during it we got better, especially in the second half. We kept the ball and played our football.
“We found a goal which is very important, it’s very important in the Champions League to score an away goal and now we have a chance at home to qualify.”
The winners will go on to face either Al Duhail or Al Sadd, both of Qatar, in the quarter-finals. In the other ties in west Asia, Saudi side Al Ittihad hold a 2-1 lead against Iran’s Zob Ahan, while in an all-Saudi clash, Al Hilal lead Al Ahli Jeddah 4-2 following their first leg.
Zob Ahan host Ittihad on Monday while the all-Saudi and Qatari second legs take place on Tuesday.
Barcelona legend Xavi was disappointed he could not mark his managerial debut with victory as Al Sadd earned a 1-1 draw in their AFC Champions League last 16 first leg tie with fellow Qataris Al Duhail.
The iconic former Blaugrana midfielder was making his debut in the dugout having been appointed head coach in May after ending his playing days with Al Sadd.
Akram Afif struck first for the visitors after half an hour, drilling home Jung Woo-young’s chipped pass. Tunisia forward Youssef Msakni levelled for former Jose Mourinho assistant Rui Faria’s hosts in the second half to set up an intriguing return leg in Doha next week.
“I am satisfied with the performance,” said the 39-year-old Xavi, who signed for Sadd after leaving Barca in 2015 following 17 trophy-laden years in Catalonia.
“We could have won but now there is another game remaining, which will be played at our home ground and we are thinking about that game now.
“My only disappointment today is that we didn’t win. It is not a bad result as we scored an away goal, but we deserved more than that. What makes me happy is how the players performed on the pitch.”
Xavi got his managerial career under way against the same side he ended his playing days against just two months earlier.
Korean playmaker Nam Tae-hee made his debut for Sadd against his former team, lasting 65 minutes on his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, before being substituted.
“Nam is returning from a seven-month injury lay-off, but he came back strongly and gave a good performance today. I am proud of what he had to offer,” added the World Cup and four-time Champions League winner.
In Tuesday’s other game in west Asia, Al Hilal took control of their all-Saudi Arabia last 16 clash with Al Ahli Jeddah, with former Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis netting a hat-trick in a 4-2 win.
Birthday boy Gomis had his cake and ate it as he drew the away side level twice after going behind, before making it 3-2 to the Crescent just after the hour, while Abdullah Al Hafith added a fourth to give Hilal the edge in the battle of the Riyadh rivals.
Syrian striker Omar Al Somah gave Ahli the lead after six minutes, Gomis heading in Peruvian winger Andre Carillo’s cushioned header soon after to level things up.
Cape Verde attacker Djaniny regained the lead for Ahli before half-time but former France international Gomis equalised again just after the break, volleying home after Sebastian Giovinco’s free-kick had been spilled. The ex-Juventus attacker then set up Gomis for his hat-trick before Al Hafith sealed victory.
Gomis, celebrating his 34th birthday, tweeted after the game: “Very good first outing for our team. I was so Glad to find so many people at the stadium, for this beautiful victory.
“The hardest remains to be done, we will do everything to continue as this inshallah, thanks again for your messages and support.”
The winners could face another Saudi side in the quarter-finals, with Al Ittihad leading Iran’s Zob Ahan 2-1 from their first leg encounter.
Rui Vitoria, meanwhile, rued his side’s missed chances as Al Nassr – the fourth Saudi side in the knockouts – were held to a 1-1 draw with Abu Dhabi giants Al Wahda on Monday.
“We started very well and had several chances, we didn’t take them. Al Wahda did and they scored from their only real chance,” said the Portuguese who took over at Nassr in January after four years in charge at Benfica.