Gamba Osaka have the confidence of a three-goal buffer to continue playing their uninhibited attacking football in the deciding leg of the AFC Champions' League final against Adelaide United here on Wednesday.
The prmier Asian club football crown is Gamba's to lose, as they close in on becoming the second consecutive Japanese winner of the title, following Urawa Reds' triumph last year.
Gamba, currently seventh in the J-League, all but sealed the destiny of this year's trophy with an emphatic 3-0 win over Adelaide in Osaka last week, and only a defensive calamity can wreck their dream of Asian success. The team's stars, Brazilian striker Lucas and Japanese international midfielder Yasuhito Endo, did the early damage before Michihiro Yasuda added a third for the home team.
Gamba are admired for their silky passing game, and are confident of wrapping up the final on Adelaide's compact Hindmarsh Stadium on Wednesday. "We've come here to play our normal game," Lucas said on the team's arrival on Monday. "."
Coach Akira Nishino is expecting an all-or-nothing assault by Adelaide before their home fans, but he wants his team to stick with their intoxicating brand of attacking football. "We have won through the series by playing aggressively, hoping to show a difference from last year's champions (Urawa)," said Nishino, whose side finished off Urawa 4-2 on aggregate in the ACL semi-finals. "We will play even better with a comfortable lead."
Free-kick specialist Endo, who has played 72 times for his country, is keen to impress on the football world the skill of Japanese football. "I wish we emerge the winners having people say, 'Oh, Japanese football is skilful,'" he said. Gamba's scoring spree last week was significant, as Adelaide had only conceded four goals in their previous 10 matches in this year's Champions League.
Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar is clinging to the faint hope that his team can produce something extraordinary on the night, and become the first Australian team to win the Asian club title. "I still think you've truly got to believe in it," Vidmar said. "There's still every possibility, and in football you don't know what's going to happen.
"So we're going to go out there, be aggressive, really take it up to them and hopefully with a bit of luck we can get an early goal, and then you just don't know what can happen."
Adelaide go into the match without experienced defender Angelo Costanzo and in-form goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic, who are both suspended after receiving yellow cards in Osaka. Midfielder Paul Reid, who is available for selection after missing the Osaka leg with a groin injury, said Adelaide must have the belief to pull off a football miracle.
"To come back would be a monumental task, but the boys are up to it. We have nothing to lose," Reid said. "We can only do what we can do, and if we've got enough belief, we can win."