Nagasawa calls for calm ahead of Guangzhou clash
Saitama: Cool-headed diligence will be the order of the day if Urawa Red Diamonds are to see off fellow two-time winners Guangzhou Evergrande in the semi-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League, believes Urawa midfielder Kazuki Nagasawa.
The teams face off in the first leg of their last four encounter at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Wednesday, with the Japanese side hoping to cast aside a poor run of domestic form to take an advantage into the return meeting in China PR later this month.
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“I think it’s all about patience,” said Nagasawa, who was part of the Urawa side that won the title in 2017. “We can’t allow a highly talented opponent to play freely, so patience on our part is important.
“We know also that we have to be very tight defensively because Guangzhou is a talented team – not just the foreign players, but also the local Chinese players are of a high level.
“I haven’t watched all of their matches but from what I’ve seen they created a lot of problems for Kashima and we know that they are a real threat.”
Nagasawa has been a key part of the Urawa set-up this season, starting six of his team’s 10 games in the competition so far as well as coming off the bench twice. He has also been on the scoresheet, netting in the 3-0 win over Beijing FC in the group phase.
And while Tsuyoshi Otsuki’s side have struggled domestically this season – Urawa are 13th in the J.League and are out of both the Emperor’s Cup and the J.League Cup – the 27-year-old is relishing the opportunity to still be playing in the continental championship.
“We know that we haven’t got the results we want in the J.League but in the AFC Champions League we’ve been able to play against teams from different countries and many different styles of football,” the former FC Koln midfielder told the-AFC.com.
“For me personally I have experience of playing abroad and am used to playing against different teams and styles of football so I’m able to play comfortably in these types of matches.
“In 2017 we became champions but now we are fighting for a second time as the representative of Japan and we want to use our collective power in this challenge to show that we’re worthy of being in such a position.
“For me personally, two years ago I played in a deeper role whereas in this current campaign I have more of an attacking responsibility. That means that I have greater freedom and that’s a challenge that I want to embrace.”
Despite their domestic difficulties, Nagasawa remains confident Urawa can become the first club to win the AFC Champions League for the third time since the competition’s inception in 2002.
After negotiating a difficult group that contained two-time winners Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from Korea Republic, Chinese side Beijing FC and Thailand’s Buriram United, Urawa showed their resilience to defeat Ulsan Hyundai in the Round of 16 before ousting reigning Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG in the last eight.
Those results, coupled with the vociferous backing given to the team by Urawa’s passionate supporters, mean Nagasawa and his teammates believe they can keep the AFC Champions League trophy in Japan for another year.
“I feel really positive,” he said. “Personally, I think I’m improving and as a team we know that we have the support and backing of all of our fans and such a large number of people.
“We’re really hungry to make sure that we get the result we need and we’re going to be giving all we’ve got to ensure that we do.”
Photos: AFP, AFC
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