October 16, 2017 / 7:50 AM / 9 months ago

Soccer: Makino eyes Asian title ahead of Shanghai semi clash

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Tomoaki Makino is already setting his sights on delivering Urawa Red Diamonds a first Asian Champions League crown in a decade even as the Japanese club gears up to take on China’s Shanghai SIPG in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday.

Japan's Tomoaki Makino celebrates after scoring against Iraq during their international friendly soccer match in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, June 11, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Urawa hold the advantage of an away goal after a 1-1 draw in the first leg three weeks ago and are aiming to reach the final for the first time since winning their one, and so far only, continental crown in 2007.

“I’m getting excited,” said the former FC Koln defender, who is expected to return to the starting line-up after being rested during Saturday’s 1-1 J-League draw with Vissel Kobe.

“We’ve had the aim at Urawa for several years now of wanting to win the Asian Champions League and now it’s the reality that we have come this far in a good way.

“I think we all have to aim at winning the title rather than just winning this game and progressing to the final.”

His fellow defender Wataru Endo is also expected to return for Urawa after he was also left out of the line-up at the weekend while Hulk, the tournament’s leading scorer, should be recalled by SIPG.

The Brazilian, who has scored nine times so far in the continental competition, was suspended for his side’s 3-3 draw with Liaoning Whowin, a result that damaged SIPG’s hopes of winning the Chinese Super League title.

Both teams have impressive scoring records in this year’s campaign, with SIPG netting 26 times and Urawa scoring 27 in their 11 games leading into the second leg, and Makino knows playing for a scoreless draw is not an option for Urawa.

“In terms of how we should play the game we know that just a draw is okay, but despite that we have to come in with the feeling that we have to win the game,” he said.

“We’re not thinking about playing with a defensive approach. All we’re thinking is that if we win then we go on to the next stage.”

Urawa are bidding to become the first Japanese club to reach the final since Gamba Osaka won the title in 2008 while SIPG, under coach Andre Villas-Boas, will hope to continue China’s strong showing in the competition in recent seasons.

Guangzhou Evergrande won the title in 2013 and 2015 and reached the quarter-finals of this year’s competition before losing a dramatic penalty shootout to SIPG after a 5-5 draw over two legs.

The winners of the semi-final at Saitama Stadium will almost certainly face off in November’s decider against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal after the twice former winners thrashed Iran’s Persepolis 4-0 in their first leg meeting three weeks ago.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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