Barring a major turnaround in Group E, this Johor Darul Ta'zim clash against Kashima Antlers is likely to be the last AFC Champions League (ACL) action at Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium for the 2019 season. Bottom of the group with only a solitary point, JDT need a minor miracle to advance to the knockout stage of the competition.
But the reigning champions of the Malaysia Super League is not giving up without a fight as they go in search of their first ever win in Asia's premier club competition. Having sent out a weakened side in the 0-1 defeat to Shandong Luneng in the previous match, JDT and Benjamin Mora look set to bring out the big guns once again.
With the expected return of the likes of Safawi Rasid, Gonzalo Cabrera and Mauricio dos Santos back to the starting line-up, captain Hariss Harun believes the time is ripe for JDT to achieve another major milestone in the club's history - getting the first win in the CL.
"We saw how tough it was in our first match but we performed really well. We fought together and that is the same objective for us today. I personally think Kashima Antlers are the most technical team in the group. Strong technically and have players who are comfortable with the ball. So, we have to be ready and anticipate moves a bit more at this level.
"We have to do our job together as a team. Having each other is an added advantage for us, and playing at home, in our stadium and on our pitch. We are looking forward to test ourselves against a top team in Asia. I think we are mentally ready to play in such a big stage.
"As a team, we need to raise ourselves and raise our levels when playing against tougher opponents. We are playing at home and we will try to make something happen because we need the result," said Hariss in Tuesday's pre-match press conference.
For JDT to advance to the Round of 16, they have to beat Kashima on Wednesday as well as Gyeongnam FC on May 22 in South Korea. On top of that, they will also need Shandong to defeat Gyeongnam in Match Day 5 and for Shandong to achieve a win against Kashima on Match Day 6. All that while looking to better the goal difference compared to Kashima.
A tall order but just like nobody gave Liverpool a ghost of a chance in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona, football sometimes provide the most incredible of comeback stories. With luck on their side, JDT may just do the impossible.
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