Graham Arnold says Sydney FC’s first AFC Champions League game in five years represents a great challenge for the club but has vowed to take a “pro-active” approach to Wednesday night’s clash with Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium.
The Sky Blues are back in Asian’s top continental competition but face a daunting first-up test against the J-League giants.
The squad arrived to cool conditions in Japan on Sunday night, with temperatures around 5C, but Arnold said they have settled in well.
They will complete their first session later on Monday evening as Arnold looks to plot a plan to get a result on Wednesday.
“We have to come over with the right positive attitude and getting the job done,” Arnold told reporters from Japan on Monday.
“If that’s three points then fantastic, if it’s a point, it’s always good to start with something.
“But we’ll definitely be going out with a proactive mentality to nullify their strengths but also to exploit their weaknesses.
“It represents a great challenge. And for Sydney FC it’s the first time we’ve played Champions League since 2011,” he added.
“Even myself I feel excited about it, it’s a totally different challenge on Wednesday night and I’m sure the players are like that as well.”
As well as Filip Holosko and Jacques Faty, who were left out of the club’s ACL squad, striker Matt Simon, midfielder Brandon O’Neill and David Carney were all left back in Sydney and won’t play.
“Carney’s only been with us for a couple of weeks and he’s actually shed quite a few kilos in those few weeks,” Arnold explained.
“He put a lot of effort into the game on Saturday night. He’s a valuable player and we just felt it was better he stays behind and he gets ready for three games next week.
“O’Neill, because he copped a cork late in the game…the medical staff felt with the long flight it wasn’t safe to travel.”
Arnold said he was undecided who would start in attack in place of Simon – with Shane Smeltz, Alex Brosque and George Blackwood all options.
He also confirmed all three of the club’s imports – Mickael Tavarez, Milos Ninkovic and Milos Dimitrijevic – would all start.
With the J-League season yet to start, Arnold hopes this will be a good time to play Urawa on their home turf.
But they have a squad littered with Japanese international, as well as a couple of excellent Slovenian imports in Branko Ilic and Zlatan Ljubijankic.
“Take the names away, it’s just the mobility of the Japanese players [which is dangerous],” Arnold said.
“I experienced it first hand when I was over coaching over there for a short while. Their mobility is very good, their central striker, the big Slovenian boy, can hold the ball up and brings other players into play.
“But overall we have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure we do our jobs.”
Sydney FC welcome Guangzhou Evergrande to Sydney Football Stadium for their first home AFC Champions League match of the group stage on Wednesday 2 March (kick off 8pm AEDT). Get your AFC Champions League Membership today and see the Sky Blues take on the best in Asia at home!