Kenta Hasegawa revealed he was grateful that Gamba Osaka have managed to reach the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup final for the second year running, ahead of their clash with Kashima Antlers.
The Japanese Treble winners enter Saturday’s showdown having won last year’s edition, and their manager took pride in his players’ determination to defend their crown.
“I’m grateful that we’ve been able to return to this stage again,” Hasegawa told reporters at the pre-match press conference.
“We had to use a lot of different players due to our tight schedule, but we were united as a team. I really want to praise my players.
“Kashima Antlers are an incredibly strong opponent and I think it will be a great match. I hope that both teams will play their hardest and that the day ends with a successful title defence on our part.”
Opposite number Masatada Ishii admitted some nerves at coaching Antlers to the final in his first campaign in charge, but he believes the occasion of the final will spur his players on.
“I feel a little tense when I think about playing here in Saitama Stadium with such a large crowd and a title on the line,” he said.
“Still, I’m confident that my players will give it their all on the pitch. Our opponents Gamba Osaka are a fantastic team and I’m looking forward to facing them.
“I think it will be a fantastic match.”