Preview - QF 2nd Leg: Urawa Red Diamonds (2) v Shanghai SIPG FC (2)
Saitama: Something will have to give on Tuesday when the two-time champions of Asia host the Chinese Super League holders in the second leg of their 2019 AFC Champions League quarter-final at Saitama Stadium.
Two first-half goals had stunned the home crowd at Shanghai Stadium last month when Tomoaki Makino and Shinzo Koroki gave visitors Urawa Red Diamonds a 2-0 lead at the break, but two penalties emphatically converted by Hulk after the restart saw the scores finish level in China PR.
With the away goal advantage and in front of their home support, Urawa have been left in a strong position to advance to the last four for the fourth time in seven appearances, while Shanghai SIPG would be looking to reach just their second semi-final.
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Urawa Red Diamonds
Having lifted the AFC Champions League title in 2007 and 2017, Urawa are focused on becoming the first team since the tournament's revamp in 2002-03 to lift the trophy for a third time and have impressively cast off domestic woes to shine once again on the Continent.
Tsuyoshi Otsuki's side came out on the front foot in Shanghai three weeks ago and the coach will have been pleased with the success of their opening 45 minutes that saw them dominate their hosts.
Nevertheless, in what was ultimately a first leg of two halves, there were warning signs for the Saitama side as Shanghai raised their level and took control of the tie to restore parity. Also of concern for the J.League club is the one-match suspension for Brazilian defender Mauricio Antonio.
Nevertheless, they can look to their last vital encounter at home against a Chinese side for inspiration – a comprehensive 3-0 win over Beijing FC on Matchday Six.
The Chinese champions have only once appeared in the final four, and that was at the 2017 edition when they were ultimately eliminated by their Tuesday opponents.
Not only are Shanghai SIPG out for revenge but also looking to show they are more than a one-man show with inspirational captain and their 2019 AFC Champions League leading scorer Hulk suspended for the tie.
Since debuting at the 2017 AFC Champions League, former Chelsea FC playmaker Oscar has been a revelation and has routinely proved a match-winner by himself. Indeed, the recently turned 28-year-old has tallied more chances created (78) than any other player over the last three editions of the tournament.
And yet, despite winning the penalty that began Shanghai SIPG's comback in the first leg, for long spells it was Urawa midfielder Kazuki Nagasawa who was the more influential: setting up both of Urawa's goals, creating five chances and boasting an impressive passing accuracy of 92%.
Whomever can dominate in the centre of the field at Saitama Stadium could be vital for their team's chances.
Ones To Watch
Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN) vs Shanghai SIPG (CHN)
Venue: Saitama Stadium, Saitama
Kick-off: September 17: 19:30 UTC+9
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