Red alert

Goalscoring juggernaut Urawa Reds welcome Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers to Saitama Stadium tonight looking to seal their passage through to the next phase of the competition.

Urawa have started the season in imperious form. They sit four points clear at the top of the J.League having won six of their opening eight fixtures, scoring an average of three goals per game. Mihailo Petrovic’s side also sit top of Group F, winning three of their four games – the only defeat being a tetchy 3-2 defeat in Shanghai. As with their form in the J.League, they haven’t been goal shy; only Guangzhou have scored more than Urawa’s 12 goals thus far.

URAWA REDS 4 3 0 1 12 5 7 9
SHANGHAI SIPG 4 3 0 1 9 4 5 9
FC SEOUL 4 1 0 3 7 11 -4 3


Urawa are brimming with confidence. Their last league outing before this was a 3-2 win over Consadole Sapporo at Saitama Stadium, a game in which excellent new signing Rafael Silva and the smooth Shinzo Koroki were on the scoresheet. Reds have five genuine starting caliber strikers: Koroki, Silva, Yuki Muto, Tadanari Lee & Zlatan, and the “problem” Petrovic has is trying to decide which ones to play on any given day. In the win against Shanghai, Zlatan was deployed as the lone striker, with Rafael Silva & midfield schemer Yosuke Kashiwagi supporting from deep.

Against Western Sydney, I expect Petrovic to go with an attacking three given that they can secure qualification on the night. In the previous game between these two teams, Petrovic went with Muto, Koroki & Lee to start, with Rafael Silva coming off the bench. That set up ended up in a 4-0 win for Reds, giving them a blueprint to work from this time around too.

Yuki Abe should be the midfield anchor again, and Urawa’s wing backs give their attack an extra dimension. There are a myriad of attacking options that the visitors will have to be wary of, and that will be very difficult to defend against.

Wanderers know that anything less than a victory will see them eliminated, and so have no choice but to go for it. Unless they get themselves ahead early, I fear that with them chasing the game, they could get picked off by Urawa and I think Reds will match their season average of three goals in this game. WSW’s solitary win in this group came away from home when they turned over FC Seoul, going 3-0 up before shipping two late goals that made the game closer than it should have been.

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