Kashima Antlers manager Oswaldo Oliveira insists success has left his record-breaking team hungrier than ever, and intends to prove the point in Saturday’s Fuji Xerox Super Cup against Gamba Osaka.
Antlers won an unprecedented third straight J. League title under the Brazilian last season, leading to suggestions that the players’ appetite might be sated heading into the new campaign.
But Oliveira has warned his championship rivals that there has been no let-up over the winter, and that the desire to make it four in a row will make Kashima even more formidable over the coming year.
“The players are more motivated than ever,” he said. “They are training very well, better than before, and they are very concentrated. I think this is a very competitive spirit and that will be important for us.
“Winning the J. League three times in a row is fantastic, but I don’t want to stop. I want to keep moving ahead.”
Kashima beat Gamba 3-0 in last year’s season curtain-raiser between league and cup champions, but the manager is not demanding a repeat scoreline this time around as long as the same team takes home the trophy.
“I don’t care what the score is — I just want to win the game,” he said. “If you compare with what happened last year, then I think we can play the same way, but each game has its own character and anything can happen.”
Both teams opened their Asian Champions League campaigns this week, with Kashima beating China’s Changchun Yatai 1-0 while Gamba drew 0-0 with Samsung Suwon Bluewings of South Korea.
Gamba manager Akira Nishino believes the match was a good warmup for Saturday’s game at National Stadium, but knows stopping Antlers captain Mitsuo Ogasawara will be a different matter.
“We feel we are well prepared because we have already had one game, a tough game in South Korea,” Nishino said. “How we stop Ogasawara will be crucial. We always try to stop him, but it’s not always easy. We just need to give it everything we’ve got to beat Antlers.”
Kashima’s ACL win will be well-received by a club that has yet to translate its domestic dominance into continental success, but Oliveira insists he is not giving priority to any particular trophy over the coming season.
“You can never choose,” he said. “We will play with the same motivation in all competitions. You can’t say whether you will go this way or that way.”
Antlers’ quest to win on all fronts will be boosted by new arrivals such as Brazilian left back Gilton and South Korean defender Lee Jung Soo. Oliveira, however, is keen to see the new faces get up to speed quickly.
“The new players need to adapt, because it is always difficult when you go to a new club and deal with new players,” he said. “It is better that they adapt as soon as possible because we have a lot of matches coming up in a very short space of time.”