If beating Gamba Osaka did not already sound like a hard enough assignment, the Reds face a team that already believes its ACL campaign is on the line.
If trying to beat Gamba Osaka did not already sound like a hard enough proposition, the Reds face the J-League club already believing its ACL campaign hangs by a thread and declared it must ‘win away-, starting with Tuesday night at Hindmarsh, if it is to be a chance of progressing past the Group Stage.
Gamba-s ACL campaign took a first up battering in Match Day 1, the 2008 ACL champions beaten 3-0 at home to South Korea-s Pohang Steelers in what was their heaviest ever home loss in the competition.
Following the defeat, Gamba-s Brazilian Coach Jose Carlos Serrao, who took over in the off season, apologised to the fans for the result and laid down challenge that now confronted the proud Japanese club.
"This was a big loss for us and now means that really we have to win away to qualify for the next stage," Serrao said.
To further compound matters, Gamba followed up the Pohang result by conceding another three goals at home less than a week later in a 3-2 loss to Vissel Kobe in their opening game of the new J-League season.
On the flipside, the Reds march into Match Day 2 full of confidence, coming off an exceptional 2-1 away win over Bunyodkor.
Having secured a precious three points in Uzbekistan, Reds captain Eugene Galekovic knows what another victory on Tuesday night would mean for United as it looks to get past the Group Stage for the third time from four attempts.
“It-s another massive game. If we can get six points out of the first two games then we only need one more win (to qualify for the Round of 16),” Galekovic said.
Galekovic also has the added incentive of never having been on a winning side against Gamba. Somewhat remarkably considering the large contrast in expenditure and resources of the two clubs, the Reds have already met Gamba Osaka tree times previously.
All of the encounters came in 2008, the J-League giants defeating United 5-0 on aggregate across the two legs of the 2008 ACL Final, before the Reds almost caused a massive boilover in the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup a month later in Japan, the Australian side narrowly edged out by Gamba 1-0.
These results and matches are still well entrenched in Galekovic-s mind, and the goalkeeper, who missed the second leg of the 2008 ACL Final through suspension, did not hide how much he would like to get one back on Gamba.
“The boys are confident, we-re playing at home and the last time we played Gamba we lost to them one-nil in the Club World Cup,” Galekovic said.
“We deserved to get something out of that game, in the end we didn-t get the equaliser but we-re confident and we know they-re a good team, so it-s another massive game for the club.”
Unlike Galekovic, it will be United Coach John Kosmina-s first experience of coming up against Gamba. He may not have been part of the previous encounters but Kosmina is fully aware of the Gamba Osaka tidal wave the Reds can expect on Tuesday night.
“You look at Gamba-s history and how successful they-ve been, and you look at them getting beaten 3-nil at home, you-ve got to say Pohang were very well prepared, so Gamba will be on the trail for revenge, they won-t want to lose another game, so it-s going to be a tough one for us,” Kosmina said.
“They-ve got the Osaka derby this weekend, there-s a fair bit at stake in terms of pride, so it-s going to be a tough game and they-re a good side.”
“They (Gamba) want success, the Asian Champions League is massive and the Japanese teams have been successful so they want to be successful.”
“They-re not coming here to get a point, they-re going to come here to try and win.”
From what Tuesday night-s result could mean in the context of both of the teams- chances of reaching the next round, the highly anticipated return of Gamba Osaka sounds like a game not to be missed. Tickets are available through Ticketek.