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Urawa's Otsuki determined to play the long game

Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Tsuyoshi Otsuki  - Urawa - Ulsan 2 - ACL 2019

Saitama: Tsuyoshi Otsuki will send his Urawa Red Diamonds team out to play the long game as the two-time champions take on Chinese Super League leaders Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the clubs’ 2019 AFC Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

Having seen his side overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit in the second leg of their Round of 16 meeting with Ulsan Hyundai in Korea Republic in June, Otsuki is focusing on the aggregate result rather than the outcome of the game at Saitama Stadium 2002.

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“We’ve finally made it to the semi-finals and now we’re focused on the game ahead,” he said. “We have two games to play and before we go to the second leg we will try to get a good result so that we can focus on getting to the final.

“We’ll be trying our best in tomorrow’s game.

Round of 16 2nd Leg: Ulsan Hyundai FC v Urawa Red Diamonds

“The last time we played at home in the first leg against Ulsan we showed we could attack and even though we had a disappointing result we were able to come back.

“So, even if we lose the game or don’t get the result we want tomorrow, we can still come back. It’s not a 90-minute game, it’s 180 minutes, so in total we have to win the game so we can go to the final.”

Urawa impressed in the second leg against Ulsan, with Shinzo Koroki scoring twice as the 2007 and 2017 champions notched up a 3-0 win on the night for a 4-2 aggregate win that set up a quarter-final meeting with Shanghai SIPG.

The J.League side met Beijing FC twice in the group phase – recording a 0-0 draw in Beijing before recording a 3-0 in Japan that secured their place in the knockout rounds – and defeated Shanghai on the away goals rule in the previous round, meaning the clash with Guangzhou will be Urawa’s fifth game of this year’s competition against Chinese opposition.

Quarter-final - 2nd Leg: Urawa Red Diamonds vs Shanghai SIPG FC

Urawa are undefeated in this year’s campaign against teams from the Chinese Super League, with one win and three draws in their previous four games, but Otsuki is placing little emphasis on his team’s earlier performances.

“I think we have a different impression of each of them, even though they play in the same league,” he said.

“Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are different types of teams but they have very good talent in attack, especially the foreign players. But it’s not only them, the Chinese players are not there just to support the foreign players, they are part of the team and they have good quality too.

“So we need to watch out or we might get defeated tomorrow.”

With Urawa eyeing a third appearance in the final of the AFC Champions League, a large crowd is expected at Saitama and Otsuki is determined he and his players will not let their passionate fans down.

“I hear there will be a lot of fans here tomorrow, so I think we have a huge responsibility to show them what we can do,” he said. “So with pride and with huge responsibility we will fight for them tomorrow.”

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