2008 AFC Champions League winners Gamba Osaka welcome 2015 AFC Cup champions Johor Darul Ta’zim on Tuesday as the two clubs battle it out for a place in Group H of the 2017 AFC Champions League.
AFC Champions League Qualifying
Gamba Osaka v Johor Darul Ta’zim
KO: Tuesday 7 February 2017 6.00pm (HKT time)
Venue: Suita City Football Stadium
Gamba’s performance in last year’s AFC Champions League will be one they will quickly want to forget and make amends for. Having reached the semi-finals the year before, they failed to win a single match in 2016, finishing bottom of their group.
That blemish aside, however, the Japanese outfit has been remarkably consistent in all competitions in recent years, and are no pushovers. Indeed, they are hot favourites to advance from Tuesday’s match.
Still, JDT will be feeling confident after their 5-4 penalty shootout success against Bangkok United of Thailand last week to advance to the play-off stage. A result against Gamba on Tuesday will no doubt spark huge celebrations amongst their vociferous supporters.
The job will certainly not be an easy one, particularly away from home, but new coach Benjamin Mora believes they are ready to seize the moment.
“Our players are prepared. They are boosted in confidence after we beat Bangkok United, and proved they are a great players until the last minute. And we are going to do it again,” he said via the Southern Tigers Facebook page.
“We are going to play good football. We are going to try and have the ball, and keep it as much as possible to dictate the rhythm of the game.”
JDT will without the services of striker Jeronimo Barrales after the Argentine received a red card in the penalty shootout victory at Bangkok United shortly after coming onto the pitch.
Ahmad Hazwan Bakri could lead the way up front in his absence, with support from Nazmi Faiz and Safawi Rasid.
Japan legend Yasuhito Endo will once again captain the Gamba side. The 37-year-old has represented his country in three World Cups, dating back to 2006, and still boasts impressive skills, particularly from set pieces.
Brazilian forward Ademilson, who has impressed since arriving on loan in 2016, will also provide JDT with a serious threat, as will Gamba’s hardworking and industrious core of midfield players, who will be doing their utmost to control possession.