JDT will 'try to dictate terms' vs. Gamba Osaka in Japan ACL playoff
Johor Darul Ta'zim will not sit back against Gamba Osaka in their final 2017 AFC Champions League (ACL) qualifier on Tuesday night, and say they intend taking the game to their more fancied Japanese opposition.
The Southern Tigers got settled in Osaka over the weekend ahead of the crunch tie after their Malaysia Super League game against Kelantan on Saturday was postponed to give them more time to prepare.
Coach Benjamin Mora is already preparing his men for the big game, and insists they are ready to seize the moment against the 2008 ACL champions.
"Our players are prepared. They are boosted in confidence after we beat Bangkok United, and proved they are a great players until the last minute. And we are going to do it again," said Mora via the Southern Tigers Facebook page.
"We are going to play good football. We are going to try and have the ball, and keep it as much as possible to dictate the rhythm of the game."
JDT will, however, be without the services of striker Jeronimo Barrales after the Argentine was sent off in the penalty shootout victory at Bangkok United, minutes after coming on.
But the Mexican coach has plenty of options at his disposal, and may use one of his local stars to fill that void.
Ahmad Hazwan Bakri could be the man tasked to find the goals in Barrales' absence, despite the national striker's slow start in JDT colours.
Besides him, Nazmi Faiz and Safawi Rasid are the other Malaysians who could play a part in this massive encounter.
Mora could also keep faith in Fadhli Shas, who has done well since replacing Aidil Zafuan in central defence.
But Gamba, who are also preparing for the 2017 J-League season, will be hot favourites to qualify for the tournament in which they have become seasoned regulars.
Still pulling the strings for Gamba is their evergreen captain Yasuhito Endo, who appeared for Japan in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 editions of the World Cup.
The 37-year-old's ability from set pieces will be a concern for JDT, along with Brazilian forward Ademilson, who impressed on loan after arriving in 2016.
The winners will seal their berth in Group H of the ACL, scheduled to begin on Feb. 20.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.