Urawa to bring the roof down in Champions League Final
Urawa Red Diamonds, a Japanese club, will try to “harness the strength” of its boisterous fan base when they take on Al Hilal from Saudi Arabia in Saturday’s Asian Champions League Final Second Leg.
Last week, both teams were able to draw 1-1 at the first-leg in Riyadh. The defending champions Al Hilal took a lead in 13th minutes through Salem Al Dawsari Shinzo Coroki, who scored Urawa’s first goal in the second-half, was on target.
Away goals are still used to break ties in Asia’s premier competition for club football. Nearly 60,000 fans are expected at Saitama Stadium north of Tokyo for the return match.
Shusaku Nishikawa, the Urawa goalkeeper who was part of the team that won the 2017 title by beating Al Hilal in 2017, believes Urawa’s fans will help them win it again.
He told journalists on Tuesday: “Make no mistakes, the atmosphere will be fantastic at home and we will play more than what we did in the previous leg.”
It’s not only the players who are on the field — those players off the bench, and even those not playing do a fantastic job.
The 36-year-old said, “We’d like to harness the power that comes from playing at home.”
Al Hilal won’t have Al Dawsari, after the star winger was sent off for kicking Ken Iwao (midfielder) in the first match.
The final is the third meeting between the two teams in six-years — Urawa was victorious in 2017 and Al Hilal took revenge two years ago.
Urawa’s semi-final win in the winter World Cup and travel problems arising from pandemic have pushed the final back almost nine months.
Nishikawa told his team that the excitement of Saturday’s match gave him goosebumps, but he warned them not to become overwhelmed by it.
“The challenge is not to think about anything special but rather to prepare as you would for any other game,” he said.
Al Hilal poses a serious threat to Urawa, even without Al Dawsari. Manchester United Odion Marega, a former Porto player, will play alongside Odion Marega in the front row.
Ighalo netted four goals as Al Hilal thrashed Qatar’s Al Duhail 7-0 in the semi-finals, and Urawa’s Atsuki Ito knows the Nigerian will be able to score in the final.
He warned: “If you get too ahead of yourself and prepare for the match thinking that we’ll do it just because we have a 1-1 result, then we’ll be burned.”
“Al Hilal have a very strong team. So we must be careful to avoid allowing that atmosphere.”
Ito, who was born in Urawa and grew up in Saitama, remembers Urawa’s two previous Champions League victories in 2007 and 2017.
He called the competition “special” because the club is known to have the largest support in Japan.
“I’ve watched it since I’ve been a child and there’s an atmosphere that’s unique for Champions League matches,” said the 24-year old.
“I want the title to be mine and I’ll celebrate with my fans.”