A defiant Gamba Osaka coach insisted his team are not afraid of Manchester United, but the Japanese side face a daunting task against the European champions in their Club World Cup semi-final today.
It will be one of the biggest games in Gamba’s history, but they are handicapped by injuries to attacking midfielders Takahiro Futagawa and Hayato Sasaki, who were stretchered off during their win over Adelaide on Sunday.
A consolation is that United are also struggling, with Dimitar Berbatov sick with a virus and ruled out of the game, while Wayne Rooney is a doubt after picking up an injury in training.
Gamba captain Satoshi Yamaguchi believes they have what it takes to tame the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney, should he play.
“We have nothing to lose and we’ll go all out, leave everything out there on the pitch,” he said.
“We don’t want to be thinking after the match that we should have done this and that, and as long as we’re playing them, we’ll play to win. But we need to make sure we don’t play like we did against Adelaide,” Yamaguchi said.
In that game, the Asian champions were lucky to survive, with the influential Yasuhito Endo scoring the only goal.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson watched the match on DVD and pinpointed Endo as the danger man, along with their Brazilian striker Lucas.
“He is their star player,” the Scot said of Endo. “Not only did he score the decisive goal, he was the influential player in terms of possession of the ball.”
“He actually changed his position from where he normally plays behind the center forward after they lost two players in the first 18 minutes and played towards the left-hand side. And it worked very well,” Ferguson said.
“Their Brazilian center forward [Lucas] is also a very good player. He has quick feet and, unusually for a Brazilian, he is tall. He is a very effective player,” he said.
Ferguson, who has defended United’s decision to make the long trip to Japan in mid-season, would not be drawn on his starting 11.
But he said veterans Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs would all play.
“They have played a lot of big games and their experience will be vital,” he said, adding that Ronaldo was also a definite starter.
Despite United’s superior skills, physical strength and experience, Gamba coach Akira Nishino suggested an upset was not just a dream.
Admitting his side’s chances of creating an upset are “close to nil,” Nishino said: “We will face them without fear.”
“Tomorrow will be a great day for Gamba. We are ready to give 100 percent for the challenge tomorrow,” he said.
Meanwhile Claudio Bieler and Luis Bolanos scored first-half goals in Tokyo yesterday to give Ecuador’s Liga de Quito to a 2-0 win over Mexico’s Pachuca to earn their place in the final where they will face Gamba or United.
The Ecuadoreans wasted little time in taking the lead when Bieler capitalized on a defensive miscue to put his team on the scoresheet after just four minutes.
Bieler picked up a poor clearance attempt by a Pachuca defender and calmly slid the ball under the outstretched arm of Pachuca goalkeeper Miguel Calero.
Liga doubled the lead midway through the first half after Pachuca defender Julio Manzur was booked for a handball on the edge of the box and Luis Bolanos curled a right-footed free kick over the wall.