Preview - Semi-final, 1st leg: Urawa Reds (JPN) v Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
Saitama: It will be a clash of two-time Continental champions when Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds host Guangzhou Evergrande of China PR on Wednesday at Saitama Stadium 2002.
The pair of East Asian heavyweights have accounted for three of the last six AFC Champions League winners with Guangzhou lifting the coveted trophy in 2013 and 2015, while Urawa added the 2017 title to their 2007 Asian championship.
However only one can go on to November's final, and a chance to make history with a record third AFC Champions League title.
See also :
Urawa Red Diamonds
Champions just two years ago, Urawa continue to shake-off poor domestic form with success in Asia, and this will be their fourth appearance in the semi-finals of the Continental competition - a record amongst Japanese teams.
The Saitama side have also never lost a home game to a Chinese Super League side in the AFC Champions League, winning six of their eight games and keeping five clean sheets in the process.
The two-time winners have, though, failed to win their last two home games in the AFC Champions League (one draw and one defeat).
Only once before, during the Group Stage of the 2015 edition, have they gone three consecutive home games without a win in the competition.
A reliable spine of the team includes veteran goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, ever-present defender Tomoaki Makino and talented midfield dynamo Kazuki Nagasawa, but it has been the prolific form of striker Shinzo Koroki that has particularly caught the eye.
The fan-favourite has scored in six of his last seven games for Urawa Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League, after failing to score in his seven appearances prior to this run in the competition.
Like Urawa, the semi-finals are familiar territory for Guangzhou in recent times: the southern Chinese side are taking part in the AFC Champions League semi-finals for the third time in their history. Indeed, they went all the way to win the competition the previous two times they had made it to the semi-final stage.
And, while their home form is impressive - 21 matches in the AFC Champions League unbeaten at Tianhe Stadium - Guangzhou Evergrande have failed to win any of their last seven away games on the Continent (four draws, three defeats) – their worst ever away form in the competition.
Guangzhou have also only one won of their four previous meetings against Urawa in the AFC Champions League.
And in the last three meetings they have failed to defeat the Saitama club (one draw, two defeats).To end this run of poor form, against both Urawa and their away record, the Chinese heavyweights will look to their Brazil-born contingent of Elkeson, Paulinho and Talisca.
The latter, in particular, has enjoyed a successful maiden campaign on the Asian scene. Five goals in just six appearances, including the match-winner in the quarter-finals, suggests the platinum haired forward will be the main threat for the visitors.
Ones To Watch:
Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN) vs Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN)
Venue: Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama
Kick-off: October 2, 19:30 UTC+9
Recommended Stories :