YOKOHAMA – Urawa Reds will have revenge on their minds when they resume their bitter rivalry with treble winners Gamba Osaka on Saturday in the Fuji Xerox Super Cup, the curtain raiser for the new J. League season.
Urawa spurned the chance to win the J. League title with a devastating defeat to Gamba last November, going down 2-0 at home in Saitama against Kenta Hasegawa’s men, who went on to secure the championship in a remarkable first season back in the top flight.
“There was a fantastic atmosphere at the stadium on that day and we were playing a great team in Gamba. We wanted to win and celebrate and it was a real shame that we couldn’t do that,” Reds captain Yuki Abe told reporters at Nissan Stadium on Friday.
“We will probably play Gamba a number of times this season and hopefully it will be a fantastic match in the first one against them. We want to get the result and build on that for our next game (on Wednesday at home to Brisbane Roar) in the Asian Champions League.”
Striker Tadanari Lee added, “It really hurt losing to Gamba last time and we want to put one over on them. If we win, then it is one title in the bag. We lost our first game (in the ACL) so we want to win here, beat Brisbane and then win our first league game. It is important that we generate momentum.”
Akihiro Sato and Shu Kurata came off the bench to grab late goals for Gamba in that crunch match in November, but Reds manager Mihailo Petrovic still believes his side was the better of the two, and says he is hoping for a similar performance on Saturday.
“I think we were the better team in Saitama but the team that plays the best doesn’t always win the game and sometimes that is the way it goes in soccer.”
“We conceded goals late on in the Gamba game but we suffered a big handicap in the first half and that had an impact in the end,” said the Serb coach, possibly referring to officiating calls he felt went against his team.
“Still, I hope that we can deliver the same kind of performance tomorrow.”
Reds have bolstered their squad for the 2015 campaign with three key signings.
Left back Wataru Hashimoto has joined from Kashiwa Reysol, striker Naoki Ishihara arrives from Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Slovene hitman Zlatan Ljubijankic makes the switch from Omiya Ardija.
“Obviously the media likes to focus on the new players that we have in the team and I understand that, but the base of the team is the one that I had last year,” said Petrovic.
“We were in the title race until the death and qualified for the ACL and it was a good season. The important thing is that we play like we did last year and my hope is that the new players I have brought in can match the ones that are already here.”
Like Gamba, Urawa Reds lost their opening match of the ACL in midweek, going down 2-1 away to South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings.
But Abe insists Reds have put that behind them and did not see the crammed fixture list that the team’s participation in the ACL has created as a handicap.
“On the contrary I am happy that we have got more games to play this year,” Abe said. “The games will keep coming and all the players will keep battling so I don’t see it as a problem.”