Johor Darul Ta’zim coach Mario Gomez has acknowledged that his side are the underdogs heading into the first leg of their AFC Cup clash against defending champions Qadsia SC on Tuesday.
However, Gomez has urged his side to continue their historic run after they became the first Malaysian side to reach the AFC Cup semi-finals after beating South China 4-2 on aggregate.
Gomez added that if his side play like they did in the second leg against South China, they have a chance of upsetting Qadsia SC%u200B and creating even more history.
"I have seen footages of Al-Qadsia’s matches, they are comfortable on the ball and play very similar to us," Gomez told The Star. "They have a number of good players and their strike force of (Doris) Fuakumptu, (Bader) Al-Mutawa and (Seydouba) Saumah are very lethal. Their central defender (Rashid) Sumaila is another tough player.
"We must play like how we did against South China…although it was an away match, the players showed great character. I want them to show the same fighting spirit in Kuwait."
"Al-Qadsia are favourites…we must retain possession to control the game. If we let them have the ball, they’ll punish us. We must be disciplined…keep the ball well and defend in numbers."
Johor Darul Ta’zim will be at a disadvantage in the first leg as they will be without striker Luciano Figueroa, who was sent off for elbowing South China defender Cheung Chi-yung in the second leg of the quarter-finals.
The Malaysian side will also not have the services of midfielder Nazrin Nawi as he is recovering from a thigh injury.
Meanwhile, in order to get accustomed to the scorching conditions, Johor Darul Ta’zim departed for Kuwait last Friday, but Gomez admitted that Qadsia SC will definitely have the upper hand on Tuesday.
"The weather is very hot for us and Al-Qadsia definitely have the advantage," Gomez said. "We’ll be without Figueroa and Nazrin but the other players are all ready for the match."