Japanese powerhouse Urawa Red Diamonds will take on Brisbane Roar on the Gold Coast next Tuesday just three days after a crucial top-of-the-table clash with J-League rivals Gamba Osaka.
Urawa is leading this season’s J-League, undefeated with six wins and two draws, but is just a point ahead of Osaka and are expected to field their strongest side in Saturday’s game in the hope to opening up a four-point gap before they head to Australia on Sunday.
That raises speculation on the make-up of their travelling squad for the final AFC Champions League Group Stage clash with the Roar on Tuesday.
A club spokesman declined to speculate on which Urawa players would be chosen to head to the Gold Coast.
Urawa have failed to fire in this year’s Champions League and have only one draw from five outings in the competition.
The Japanese are bottom of the group and cannot advance to the knockout Round of 16.
By contrast, the third-placed Roar (seven points) are still a shot of finishing in the top two of the group and qualifying for the next stage – to be played in late May, but the Roar must beat Urawa by at least two goals, possibly three.
Brisbane’s fate though also hinges on the outcome of the other final Group G game between South Korea’s Suwon Samsung FC and China’s Beijing Guoan, which will be played simultaneously in Suwon next Tuesday night.
Suwon and Beijing Guoan are tied together at the top of the group on 10 points – with Beijing ranked higher under AFC rules because they beat Suwon 1-0 on Matchday 2. A draw in their game would see both Suwon and Beijing Guoan advance.
A Beijing win next Tuesday would also see the Roar miss out as they have an inferior head-to-head with Suwon as a result of the 3-1 loss in South Korea on Matchday 4.
If the Roar can get a comfortable win over Urawa, and Suwon wins, Brisbane’s head-to-head with Beijing Guoan is tied (each team has scored a 1-0- away win) and the runner-up in the group would be decided on goal difference.
Going into the final round Beijing has a plus three (5-2) goal difference to the Roar’s minus one (6-7).
The four-goal difference can be overcome if the Roar win well and Beijing Guoan concede goals in Suwon – guaranteeing a real nail biter at Robina next Tuesday.
Tickets to next Tuesday’s clash between the Roar and Urawa are just $10 for adults, $5 for children and $25 for a family (two adults/ two children). Pre-purchased tickets include free public transport to and from the match at Gold Coast Stadium at Robina. Kick-off is 7pm. To book seats, go to Ticketek.