SAITAMA — Holger Osieck has shrugged off concerns about potential player fatigue after Urawa’s epic AFC Champions League semifinal victory added two more vital matches to what promises to be a busy end to the Reds’ season.
Urawa advanced to the final of the continental competition for the first time in the club’s history with a penalty shootout victory over Seongnam Ilhwa on Wednesday and will play Iran’s Sepahan on Nov. 7 and 14 in the home-and-away decider.
Before preparing for the final, the Reds have to turn their attention to Sunday’s J. League match against Nagoya Grampus Eight. Urawa stands six points clear of Gamba Osaka at the top with five games left and Osieck is confident the adrenalin now kicking in will help his players in their bid to retain the league title.
“Fatigue is an odd thing, I never talk about it. When you win, you never feel any pain. That’s it. You keep going and going and going,” said the German coach, pointing to the example set by Japan international Yuki Abe against Seongnam.
Abe, who scored one of the shootout penalties in the 5-3 win, may have soldiered on in Wednesday’s match, but both Nobuhisa Yamada and Marcus Tulio Tanaka came off with injuries, with Tulio a doubt for Sunday.
Meanwhile, Washington, scorer of a brilliant first goal against Seongnam, had to play with a protective mask after breaking his nose the previous weekend in the league victory over JEF United Chiba.
Osieck may believe fatigue is something that only happens to those with nothing to play for, but even the most successful players succumb to injury.
And as the games mount up — Urawa plays Kawasaki Frontale just three days before the second leg of the ACL final and Shimizu S-Pulse four days after in a potential league decider for the Reds — the German coach is reassured when he looks toward the Reds bench.