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Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

Reds shift focus to ACL showdown


Staff writer

Urawa Reds manager Gert Engels is staking his club's entire season on retaining its Asian Champions League title, starting with Wednesday's semifinal first-leg clash with Gamba Osaka.

Engels all but threw in the towel in Urawa's bid for a second J. League crown after slumping to a 3-2 defeat against JEF United Chiba on Sunday, saying anything less than six wins from six remaining matches would torpedo his club's chances of finishing on top of the table.

Engels has instead focused his sights on drawing first blood in Wednesday's all-Japanese matchup at bitter rival Gamba's Banpaku Stadium (Expo Stadium), urging his players to forget about a poor run of form that has seen Reds take seven points from their last six domestic games.

"We have to put the J. League behind us for the moment," he said. "The semifinal is a very big game for us, and we have to make sure we win. Our top priority has to be to win this semifinal."

But Engels knows it will take more than just a change of tournament to draw the best out of his under-performing players.

"What we have to do is change our mind-set and change our heart," he said. "Physically there is not much time to recover, and there is not much we can do there. But each player can do better.

"Each individual player should be able to relax more and make fewer mistakes. Each individual has to focus on his own role, and if we can do, that we can win on Wednesday."

The second leg of the tie is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Saitama Stadium.



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