Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol must end a two-game continental losing streak at Guangzhou Evergrande’s Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium on Tuesday to secure a return to the semi-finals of the AFC Champions League with the J.League side also needing to score at least three goals at the home of the 2013 winners.
Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou posted a dominant 3-1 win at Hitachi Kashiwa Stadium at the end of last month thanks to an own goal from stand-in Kashiwa captain Daisuke Suzuki as well as strikes from Brazilian midfielder Paulinho and China forward Gao Lin.
Kashiwa striker Masato Kudo was able to grab a late lifeline for the home side ahead of the return fixture, although Tatsuma Yoshida’s side must claim a first AFC Champions League success at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium having lost during the group stage in 2012 and 2013 semi-finals.
“I’ve played there twice already and know how intimidating the venue can get, but I’m used to it already. More than that, we want to make them silent with the power and strength we have,” said Kudo, who featured as Kashiwa lost 3-1 in the 2012 group stage and 4-0 during the second leg of their 2013 semi-final at Tianhe Sport Centre Stadium.
“I tried my best to get at least two goals back from them before the end of the first leg, and I ended up getting one goal, and I would like to turnaround the position in the away match in Guangzhou.
“Most people believe that it is now too difficult to win, but what we know is that each individual player will have strong feeling towards being number one in Asia, so I think we must think about that and fight as if it’s life or death.”
Kashiwa, who did share a goalless draw with Guangzhou at home in the group stage of the 2012 AFC Champions League, warmed up for the trip to China with a 1-0 defeat against Urawa Red Diamonds in the J.League on Friday.
But midfielder and regular captain Hidekazu Otani did return to the full-strength side against Urawa having missed the first leg due to injury, although defender Naoki Wako remains a doubt due to a concussion suffered prior to the defeat by Guangzhou last month.
“Even though we lost the match 3-1, we were able keep the hope with that one goal by Kudo, and rather than 3-0 ahead of the away match, with 3-1 we have more hope and mentally it’s completely different,” said Kashiwa coach Yoshida.
“With a quite packed schedule it will obviously affect the physical strength of the players, but we will try our best to manage it ahead of the second leg.”
Opponents Guangzhou, meanwhile, enjoyed significantly better preparations as the 2013 AFC Champions League winners moved to the top of the Super League with a 3-0 win over Shanghai SIPG on Saturday.
The victory saw Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side extend their winning streak to three games, while Guangzhou have now not lost in any competition since the first leg of their AFC Champions League last 16 tie with Korea Republic’s Seongnam FC at the end of May.
“The first leg of the quarter-final was fascinating and both sides showed their own merits, although we did a better job in terms of scoring,” said Scolari. “But that has already become history, right now we have to focus on the upcoming match.”
Also on Tuesday, Lekhwiya face a similar task against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal although the Qatar champions will look to overturn a 4-1 first leg deficit in Doha.
Brazilian Carlos Eduardo and compatriot Ailton as well as Khalid Kaabi were on target for 2014 finalists Al Hilal at King Fahd International Stadium last month, although Youssef Msakni was able to grab a potentially crucial away goal for Lekhwiya in the first half.