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Saitama: A decade on from the year Urawa Red Diamonds made continental history by becoming the first Japanese side to lift the AFC Champions League title, the J.League club have a second chance at reaching the tournament’s showpiece when they face Shanghai SIPG in the semi-final second leg on Wednesday.

Shanghai, meanwhile, are already enjoying a historic campaign and have their eyes fixed on a first final in just their second appearance in the competition, while a 1-1 draw in the first meeting in China leaves the prospects of a mouthwatering conclusion to the tie at Saitama Stadium.


Urawa Red Diamonds 

Urawa Red Diamonds will look to extend their run of five consecutive home victories in the 2017 AFC Champions League to take them to a second continental final and a first since their run to the title 10 years ago.

The statistics overwhelmingly favoured opponents Shanghai SIPG in the first leg at Shanghai Stadium but, despite the Chinese Super League side’s dominance in attack, they were able to score just once – a superb solo goal from Hulk that Urawa managed to negate when Yosuke Kashiwagi restored parity.

 

A goalless draw would also be enough for the hosts, courtesy of their away goal, but chances are low of that occurring when the two highest scoring teams in the tournament  clash.

Rafael Silva is the leading scorer for Urawa on the continent this year but it is Shinzo Koroki who continues to be the man most likely to lead the line and the forward is currently the top marksman in the J.League.

Midfield playmaker and creator-in-chief Kashiwagi is the one expected to be the source of the ammunition.


Shanghai SIPG

Games involving Shanghai SIPG are not for the faint-hearted with an attack that can’t stop scoring often hampered by a defence that struggles to keep clean sheets and a near-perfect home record countered by vulnerability on the road.

Having scored 18 times in five home games prior to the first leg, much of the same was anticipated when the sides met in China but, despite the hosts controlling the game, the usual hatful of goals was not forthcoming as the 1-1 scoreline proved to be both teams first draw of the campaign.

Shanghai's goal was, unsurprisingly, scored by Hulk, who maintained his incredible record of having netted in all nine games he has played as he bagged yet another long-range stunner.

Attack-minded players Wu Lei, Oscar and Elkeson will look to share the big striker’s burden on Wednesday. 

But Shanghai’s frailty at the back has seen them ship 10 goals in their past three away games and, therefore, the onus will be on goalkeeper Yan Junling and defender Wang Shenchao – both of whom return from suspension – to shore up a defence that could prove their undoing in Japan.



Ones To Watch: First leg stats

Urawa Red Diamonds vs Shanghai SIPG
Venue: Saitama Stadium, Saitama
Kick-off: October 18, 19:30 UTC+9

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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