GUANGZHOU EVERGRANDE V GAMBA OSAKA – ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PREVIEW

Usami has experienced a rebirth since his Munich malaise.

Scolari & Usami
Asian Champions League Semi Final 2015.

It’s a promoters dream. Two of the continent’s biggest clubs, the reigning champions of their respective leagues, and an international rivalry that dates to a time before football.

China’s Guangzhou Evergrande takes on Japan’s Gamba Osaka.
It’s the Asian Champions League semi final, a match that doubles as a grand final for the east side of the conference. While Guangzhou is once again topping the charts in the Chinese Super League, Gamba Osaka’s form in the 2nd Stage of a complicated J-League season is simmering to dangerous levels.
Currently 4th in the J-League’s combined or regular table, the Osaka club will go into the two legged tie as underdogs. Torch bearers for the once vaunted but now stuttering Japanese club competition, Gamba is aiming to bring the Champions League title to Japan for the first time in seven years. The last time a Japanese club was champion it was Gamba who tore Adelaide United apart in a one sided final.

 

Led by statesman Yasuhito Endo, Gamba Osaka boasts one of the most feared attacks in the AFC, with the silky Takashi Usami and the brute force of Brazilian Patric.
After being forced to miss the quarter final tie with Jeonbuk, Usami said, “In the next match I want to show how I can contribute to the team and help us go to the final,” on the AFC Official site.
“Guangzhou is one of the best teams in Asia and they will be coming at us hard seeking the win,” he added.
Usami was instrumental in Gamba’s domestic treble last year, and the flashy attacking midfielder has truly experienced a rebirth since his Munich malaise.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou will be looking to emulate their 2013 ACL triumph. Boosted by the recent purchase of Paulinho from Tottenham, the southern Tigers host the first leg. After ditching previous manager Fabio Cannavaro, the club went for the ‘slightly more experienced’ Felipe Scholari. ‘Big Phil’ has somehow been able to inject life back into a side that has admittedly achieved everything over the last three to four years and would be excused if motivation was on the wane.
“Every second on the field is going to be important on Wednesday,” Scholari warned, and the Brazilian implored his men to keep a clean sheet and take a lead to Osaka for the second leg.
For punters there seems to be only one team in the first leg, as Gamba Osaka have been quoted as long as $5.50 at some betting agencies. Looking at the following stats provides good reason for the bookies and desperate to be banking on a Chinese win:
  • In their quarter final tie Guangzhou dispatched of Japanese club Kashiwa Reysol by roundly drubbing the Chiba club 3-1 in the first leg in Japan.
  • Guangzhou is undefeated in their last 17 matches.
  • Felipe Scholari is unbeaten as manager of the Chinese club.
  • Guangzhou has game breaker Paulinho.
  • The Tigers also have Ricardo Goulart and Chinese international Gao Lin.
  • Gamba Osaka will be without regular centre-back Daiki Niwa.
  • Gamba Osaka has conceded 7 goals in their last 5 matches.
For those that like an underdog, maybe you can take some solace in these stats:
  • After losing their first two ACL matches this year, Gamba have gone 8 matches undefeated.
  • Takashi Usami has played 29 matches and scored 19 goals this year.
  • Gamba defeated their last Chinese opponent (Guangzhou R&F) 5-nil in China.
  • The Japanese club has scored the most goals in the 2015 ACL with 19 goals from their 10 matches. Guangzhou Evergrande has only managed 16.
If forced to pick a winner I have to side with Guangzhou Evergrande, as the Tigers have too many game breakers. Gamba themselves have Usami, Patric and super sub Shu Kurata as possible match winners, but the enforced change in the back-line could be the difference.
Enjoy what should be a two-legged feast of attacking football.
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