- Asia’s club champions to be decided on Saturday
- Urawa Red Diamonds earned a 1-1 draw at Al Hilal in the first leg
- Winner to represent Asia at upcoming FIFA Club World Cup
Having been held to a 1-1 draw at home in the 2017 AFC Champions League final first leg, Al Hilal start on the back foot in the return against J.League heavyweights Urawa Red Diamonds. Indeed, if Ramon Diaz's visitors are to claim their maiden Champions League crown, they must not only overcome their resilient rivals but also the famed Urawa support in the cauldron that is Saitama Stadium on the outskirts of Tokyo.
The hosts, for their part, enter the tournament decider confident of triumphing at home. Urawa coach Takafumi Hori has urged his players to make the most of the opportunity as they seek to end a ten-year Champions League drought. Also on offer to the victor is a ticket to next month’s FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The match Urawa Red Diamonds-Al Hilal, Saitama Stadium, Saturday 25 November, 19:15 local time (11:15 CET)
Al Hilal may have managed to maintain their undefeated run in this campaign after the opening leg. However, it is Urawa that enter the return with a slim advantage knowing that a goalless draw is enough to see them crowned Asian club kings. Tactically, the visitors at some point will be left with no option but to attack if they are to earn the prize. Urawa, however, boast an unblemished home record, with the J.League giants prevailing in all six home outings.
Six yellow cards and an injured player were the cost Al Hilal paid in the first leg. But, despite their dominance, they were left frustrated by Urawa's well-organised defence led by an impressive goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa. Needless to say, the visitors will look to the goalscoring form of Syrian striker Omar Khribin to breach the hosts' solid rearguard. Urawa are, meanwhile, likely to try and reprise their defensive masterclass which saw them hold off a powerful Shanghai SIPG in the semi-final.
*Player to watch *In a sense, Urawa are indebted to their Brazilian forward *Rafael Silva *for reaching the AFC Champions League final for a second time. The 25-year-old is the team's top goalscorer in the Asian campaign, managing eight goals from ten matches to leave Urawa are on the verge of glory. He showcased his predatory talents during the knockout stage, scoring the goal which saw them eliminate Shanghai SIPG before opening the scoring at Al Hilal to give his side a precious draw and away goal.
Did you know? *Al Hilal captain *Yasser Al Qahtani will enter the second leg hoping his vast experience will help his side get over the line. The 35-year-old attacker has appeared in ten AFC Champions Leagues during two spells with the Riyadh giants over a decade. He was an unused substitute as his team were held to a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg. But with Brazilian midfielder Carlos Eduardo ruled out due to injury, the 2007 AFC Player of the Year is likely to be an impact player off the bench in the decider.
What they said
"Sometimes we go through difficult times like we did against Al Hilal [in the first leg], but the second game will be something different in front of our own supporters. We will put in a different performance. We haven’t accomplish anything yet. We must remain focused in the second leg to get a result at home and lift the trophy."
Urawa Red Diamonds head coach Takafumi Hori