Gamba eye solace amid Japan tragedy
Gamba Osaka boss Akira Nishino hopes victory over Tianjin Teda in tomorrow's Asian Champions League Group E game at Tianjin Teda Stadium can bring a small measure of relief to Japan as the country struggles to cope with the aftermath of Friday's earthquake and tsunami.
The 2008 champions got their campaign off to an emphatic start with a 5-1 thumping of Melbourne Victory at Expo 70 Stadium, but since then the country has suffered as yet untold tragedy following the events at the end of last week.
"As you may know, Japan suffered a devastating earthquake and we are not in a normal frame of mind," said Nishino, whose side took two days to reach Tianjin. "We feel very sad but we will not let our compatriots down. We must concentrate on the match first and try our best to walk away with a good result. I believe our victory here will be good news to the Japanese people."
Opposite number Arie Haan believes the tragedy will serve to spur on Gamba. "I think it will add to the team spirit of Gamba," said the Dutch coach, whose side won 1-0 at Jeju United in their opening game. "But both sides are looking for a win. We are not scared of them. We respect them and we will try to win."
New boss in for Melbourne
Melbourne host Jeju at Etihad Stadium with new boss Mehmet Durakovic at the helm following Ernie Merrick's departure. "It's exciting to be given such a great role, coaching one of the best clubs, not just in Australia, but in Asia," said the former Australia defender.
"It is a big responsibility for myself, but I've got the full support of the players and coaching staff. We'll just give it all we have got, keep positive and do our best," he said. "I've got my own brand of play, there will be a few changes, some new faces come into the side and some structural changes."
Jeju coach Park Kyung-hoon admitted Durakovic's promotion has upset his gameplan. "A new coach means Melbourne will have a new strategy," Park said. "We will pursue what we planned in the first place, but we may have to find new ways to deal with their team."
Metsu steps out
Al Gharafa welcome Al Hilal to Al Gharafa Stadium in Group A - a repeat of last year's quarter-final second leg which the Qataris won 4-2, although they went out 5-4 on aggregate. "It could be another crazy game but you never know, it could be a close game too because Al Gharafa are playing at home," said Al Hilal boss Gabriel Calderon. "In football, you never know. It will be a difficult match. They have very good defenders and midfielders. They have Juninho, who is very experienced."
Former Qatar boss Bruno Metsu only took charge of Al Gharafa on Sunday and admitted he has not had much time to work with the team. "It is a challenge for the coach, the players and officials. We just have to find a balance," said the Frenchman.
The other game sees group leaders Sepahan entertain Al Jazira with Hadi Aghali expected to deputise for injured midfield regular Moharram Navidkia. Fellow Iranians Esteghlal travel to Al Nassr keen to erase the memory of their opening Group B draw with Al Sadd, where they let slip a one-goal lead with two minutes to go, while in Group F, Seoul take on Hangzhou Greentown at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Nagoya's encounter with Al Ain has been postponed.