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Urawa's Koroki to focus on defence against Guangzhou


Guangzhou: Shinzo Koroki’s goals have been instrumental in Urawa Red Diamonds’ run to the semi-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League, but the striker will be focusing on the defensive side of his game when the J.League side face Guangzhou Evergrande in the second leg of their last four meeting on Wednesday.

Koroki has found the back of the net on seven occasions in this year’s competition, leaving him two adrift of the tournament’s top scorers Bafetimbi Gomis from Al Hilal and Al Wahda’s former striker Leonardo with Urawa closing in on a third appearance in the competition’s final.

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The 33-year-old was not on the scoresheet when his side picked up a 2-0 win in the first leg against Guangzhou earlier in the month but he knows that the goals scored by Fabricio and Takahiro Sekine give the two-time winners a significant advantage going into the game at Tianhe Stadium.

Semi-final - 1st Leg: Urawa Red Diamonds vs Guangzhou Evergrande

“Guangzhou have to score at least twice if they want to claim the win, so perhaps they will attack us at first,” he said. “So what we have to do is maintain the balance of the team and not concede.

“And if we score a goal then Guangzhou have to score four, so the most important thing is to keep the balance within the team."

“It is very difficult to play here but our opponent is in a special situation. They have to attack more and they have to score more than two goals.

"So if we keep the score at 0-0 then, as time goes on they will become more and more nervous and we will get chances. We have to keep the score at 0-0 as long as we can and then we’ll have a chance.”

Urawa are making their third appearance in the AFC Champions League at Tianhe Stadium, having never won on their previous visits – which came in the group phase of the competition in 2013 and 2016 – underlining the challenge that remains for the J.League side.

“In the AFC Champions League we have already played here in Guangzhou twice before, losing once and drawing once so we know it’s a very difficult away game,” said Koroki. “But we’ll try our best. We have a two-goal lead, so the most important thing is that we try our best to go through to the next round.”

That two-goal advantage means Urawa are just 90 minutes away from a place in the final, keeping alive their hopes of a historic third AFC Champions League crown to add to the titles won in 2007 and 2017. The winners of Wednesday’s tie will take on either Al Hilal or Al Sadd in next month’s decider.

“We know this match is very difficult because we’re playing away from home and that’s very important,” said head coach Tsuyoshi Otsuki.

“Apart from the technical and tactical aspects, the players’ mentality is very important and we hope they will fight together and win the game.

“We’re facing a very strong team. Guangzhou Evergrande have very strong players but we’ll try our best to go through to the next round.”

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