SAITAMA – Urawa Reds boss Mihailo Petrovic is confident his side can extend its recent run of good form when it takes on defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande in a crunch Group H match in the Asian Champions League in Saitama on Tuesday night.
Reds are unbeaten in all competitions since losing 2-1 at home to Jubilo Iwata in their first home league game of the season on March 6 and currently lead the J. League standings with four wins from five.
The 2007 Asian champions have four points from three ACL games and showed tremendous character to come from two goals down to draw 2-2 away to Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou in their last match on March 16.
“The good form stems from our loss to Iwata. That defeat confirmed various things to us and showed us what adjustments we needed to make,” Petrovic told a press conference on Monday.
“After that, in the games against Avispa Fukuoka, away to Guangzhou, Shonan and Kofu, the team knew what, and demonstrated what — was required of them. In that sense we are very confident going into tomorrow’s game. We are determined and will give every last drop right until the end of the match.”
Guangzhou will need to show significant improvement in Tuesday’s game, having taken only two points from three games to sit at the bottom of the group.
“It is going to be an even more difficult game than when we played them away as they will (likely) have to beat us if they want to qualify from the group stage,” said Petrovic.
“That said, we matched them when we played them away and showed we are a strong team, too. They are the No. 1 team in Asia and we will respect them. We need points as well from tomorrow’s game and hopefully the team and supporters can pull together as one.”
Reds’ Slovenian striker Zlatan Ljubijankic said the team has to play like it did in the second half of the away game in Guangzhou right from the start on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a big game and we are playing against good opponents and this is probably our most important game so far in the ACL,” said Ljubijankic. “With a win tomorrow we can take a big step to making our goal of qualifying. I think we are ready.
“If you look at the last game apart from the first 20 minutes we played well and we have to play like we played in the second half when we create chances. We can’t afford any mistakes because they are really dangerous on the counter.”
Urawa forward Naoki Ishihara will be ruled out for the second game of his two-match suspension.
Guangzhou coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insisted there was no pressure on his team. Although defeat would not mean mathematical elimination for either team, the importance of getting a result was not lost on the Brazilian World Cup winner.
“There is no pressure. If we win we have a chance of qualifying and if we lose we say bye-bye to the Champions League. We know about this. Whoever loses the game tomorrow it is bye-bye,” he said.
In Tuesday’s other match involving a J. League side, Sanfrecce Hiroshima are away to winless Thai champions Buriram United, who will be looking to avenge their 3-0 defeat in their last match.
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