Gamba Osaka captain Yasuhito Endo has played down the absence of top goal-scorer Takashi Usami ahead of the AFC Champions League quarter-final second leg clash against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Wednesday.
The Japanese international has scored four times in the Champions League this season and netted 18 in 28 matches in the J-League, including two against Kashiwa Antlers on Saturday, but will miss the Champions League clash through suspension after picking up a yellow card in the first leg in August.
“He will be missed obviously since he scores a lot and is a big danger to the away team,” Endo told the Asian Football Confederation website.
“But whoever is on the pitch, we need to win so we will do our best and cover what we can do as a team.”
Kenta Hasegawa, Gamba’s coach, also chose to take a positive outlook on the Endo’s suspension.
“Since he will not be around, it might confuse Jeonbuk who to mark and that might lead to breaking the opponent’s balance,” he said.
“Also, the rest of the team has enough strength to show a powerful game, so I am quite positive we have enough strength to win this match.”
Gamba and Jeonbuk played to a goalless draw in the first leg of the tie at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium on August 26, which gives the visitors a slight advantage in the second leg at the Osaka Expo '70 Stadium.
Jeonbuk will advance even if the match finishes as a score draw, meaning that defense may be more important than attacking for the hosts.
Gamba will hope to prevent the South Korean side from scoring, and are boosted to that end by the return of defender Yasuyuki Konno from suspension.
The 85-cap Japan veteran is expected to start Wednesday’s game but could be left out of the side in favour of Tomokazu Myojin, who filled in for him successfully in the first leg.
Endo told Yonhap News Agency that he expects his side to triumph in the testing fixture regardless of who lines up.
"Individually Jeonbuk's players are at a very high level. There are a lot of national team players on the team, and they become stronger when they are together," he said.
"Their play is fast too. I don't see any weakness, but if we have more direct play, we should be able to make more chances.
"We had good stable defense in the first game, but what we can do better is that we should make fewer mistakes when we attack so that we can keep the ball longer.”
Endo’s side will play either Japanese rivals Kashiwa Reysol or China’s Guangzhou Evergrande if they advance on Wednesday.