Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kawasaki Frontale chase Champions League crown

Kawasaki Frontale were left kicking themselves after they went down 2-0 to Urawa Reds in front of a capacity crowd at Todoroki Stadium in the J. League last weekend.

Kawasaki Frontale chase Champions League crown.


That defeat was a further blow to the Kanagawa side's chances of winning a first ever J. League title, but for now coach Takashi Sekizuka will turn his attentions to the Asian Champions League.

Kawasaki have reached the quarter-final stage for the second time in the revamped competition's brief history, after Frontale were knocked out on penalties by Iranian side Sepahan in 2007.

This time they face a familiar opponent in the form of fellow Japanese side Nagoya Grampus, with Kawasaki desperate to reach a final played just a stone's throw across the Tama River at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Kawasaki reached the final eight after finishing second behind K-League side Pohang Steelers in their group, before beating defending champions Gamba Osaka in a one-off Round of 16 clash.

Now the upwardly mobile outfit face another all-J. League test, and they'll be particularly wary of former Frontale midfielder Magnum, who these days pulls the strings in the Nagoya midfield.

Nagoya topped their group at the expense of A-League side Newcastle Jets, before seeing off Korean giants Suwon Bluewings in an impressive Round of 16 victory.

Coach Dragan Stojkovic has failed to inspire his side to any great heights in the J. League this season, so the Champions League represents somewhat of a last chance for Nagoya to make a name for themselves.

Australian striker Josh Kennedy could prove a key figure for the Aichi-based side, with the 1.94m striker scoring four goals in eight league games since his switch from German football.

In other quarter-final fixtures, Qatari surprise package Umm-Salal take on FC Seoul, with the Korean side missing captain Kim Chi-Gon and midfielder Kim Han-Yoon through suspension.

Luiz Felipe Scolari will be desperate to steer Uzbek champions Bunyodkor past Pohang Steelers, while Uzbekistan's other representatives Pakhtakor Tashkent take on two-times champions Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

The reverse fixtures take place on September 30.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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