It goes without saying that Johor Darul Ta’azim will go into their Asian Champions League play-off tie against Gamba Osaka as obvious underdogs, but Benjamin Mora believes that his men are motivated enough to make history in Japan.
The Southern Tigers clinched an unexpected win over Bangkok United on spot-kicks in the ACL preliminary rounds and Mora claims the squad morale is incredibly high after triumphing in such dramatic fashion.
“They have boosted their confidence after the win over Bangkok United the other day. They demonstrated their talent and proved to themselves that they can do it, regardless of the task. They proved that they are a bunch of great players and a great team,” he told Johor Southern Tigers’ Official Facebook page.
“Now, we’re going to try and do it again. We’re going to fight, we’re going to play good football, we’re going to try to have the ball and steal the ball as many times as possible, so we can dictate the rhythm of the game,” he added.
Things have been relatively shaky for the reigning Malaysian Super League champions in recent months, as they lost the services of Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Juan Martin Lucero. Influential head coach Mario Gomez was also shown the exit door last month, with Benjamin Mora being promoted into the head coach role.
But in the midst of all these uncertainty, JDT are now within distance of possibly becoming the first Malaysian team to qualify for the group stages of the prestigious Asian Champions League.
Standing in their way is a Japanese heavyweight side in the form of Gamba Osaka. Led by the ever-present Yasuhito Enda, the two-times J-League champions have been a regular fixture in the ACL, even going all the way before winning it back in 2008. But with the 2017 J.League season yet to start, Gamba could possibly be well short on match-fitness – which should undoubtedly boost JDT’s hopes of making history at the Suita City Stadium.