The second semifinal of the AFC Champions League 2019 will see Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds face Chinese Super League opposition Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg at the Saitama Stadium 2002 on Wednesday.
2017 champions Urawa Reds reached the semifinal of ACL 2019 after overcoming Chinese side Shanghai SIPG 3-3 on aggregate. The two teams were not to be separated after playing out 2-2 and 1-1 draws in the two legs, but it was the J1 League side that progressed on away goals.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou faced defending champions Kashima Antlers in their last eight tie and played out a goalless draw in the first leg in China PR. However, a 1-1 draw in Japan gave the Chinese side the win, also thanks to the away goal rule.
Here, we take a look at the five key facts surrounding the East Asia Zonal Semifinal…
1) The Reds have had the upper hand
Urawa Red Diamonds have only lost in one of their four meetings against Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League and are undefeated in the last three with two wins and a draw. The two teams first met in the group stages of ACL 2013 and it was a 3-0 win for the Chinese side at the Tianhe Stadium — which remains their only win against Urawa in the competition. The return leg saw Urawa win 3-2, but that did not stop the Reds from crashing out of the group. They were once again drawn to the same group in 2016, but this time it was Guangzhou who crashed out after a 2-2 draw in Tianhe Stadium and a 1-0 defeat in Saitama.
2) Champions League pedigree
The two teams have the Asian Champions League four times between them. Urawa Reds also hold the record for being the Japanese club with the most appearances in the semifinal of the AFC Champions League. They will be making their fourth semifinal appearance this time around having also reached this stage in 2007, 2008 and 2017 — winning it in 2007 and 2017. Meanwhile, Guangzhou are appearing in their third semifinal after 2013 and 2015. The Chinese Super League outfit have won the competition on both the previous occasions they have played the semifinals.
3) Can Urawa find their feet at home?
It is high time that Urawa Reds register a home win in Asia’s premier club competition. The J1 League side have failed to win their last two home games in the AFC Champions League having drawn and lost one apiece. They were beaten 2-1 by Ulsan Hyundai in the ACL 2019 Round of 16 first leg and had to pull off a 3-0 win in the second leg to reach the quarterfinals where they were held to a 1-1 draw by Shanghai. They have only gone three consecutive home games without a win in the competition once before and that was back in 2015.
4) Guangzhou’s away record worrying
AFC Champions League 2019: Kashima Antlers 1-1 Guangzhou Evergrande (Serginho 51′)
Guangzhou have failed to win any of their last seven away games in the AFC Champions League — losing three and drawing four. This is their worst ever away form in the history of the AFC Champions League and something that the Urawa Reds will be mindful of when the two teams battle at the Saitama Stadium on Wednesday. The Japanese side will also be boosted by the fact that they have never lost at home to Chinese opposition winning six of their eight games and also keeping five clean sheets in the process!
5) Can rejuvenated Koroki lead Urawa to another final?
AFC Champions League 2019: Shanghai SIPG 0-2 Urawa Red Diamonds (Shinzo Koroki 30′)
One man that Urawa Reds will be relying heavily on in the semifinals will be their veteran forward Shinzo Koroki. The 33-year-old was on a seven-match goalless streak in the ACL not very long ago, but has netted in six of his last seven games for the Japanese side in the ACL scoring seven goals. Koroki was part of the Reds squad that lifted the continental title beating Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal FC in the final back in 2017. Can the attacker lead his side to another final and maybe even another title?
(Facts via Opta)