Urawa welcome Al Hilal to raucous Saitama 90 minutes from Asian crown

Urawa welcome Al Hilal to raucous Saitama 90 minutes from Asian crown

Urawa Reds stand a mere 90 minutes away from the AFC Champions League title.

The Reds took care of business in the first leg of the final, drawing Al Hilal 1-1 in Saudi Arabia. Now they return to a raucous Saitama Stadium 2002 with an away goal in hand and simply needing to defend home turf for their third Asian crown.

Urawa are Japan’s most successful continental club, having won the Champions League in 2007 and 2017. Both of their previous continental conquests portend well for Urawa’s chances this time around too.

In 2007, Urawa went to Iran for the first leg and drew Sepahan, 1-1. Then in 2017, they went away to this same Al Hilal club in the first leg and also drew 1-1. The 1-1 draw away in the first leg has delivered the Reds two Asian titles before, and they used the same blueprint in this final.

Making matters easier for Urawa is the red card shown to Salem Aldawsari late in the first leg. He scored Al Hilal’s lone goal of the match, but is now suspended for the second leg in a blow to the Saudis’ attack.

Still, Al Hilal will present a big challenge for Urawa. They are an excellent club who have won two of the last three Champions League titles and feature some tremendous players like Odion Ighalo, Moussa Marega and Mohamed Kanno.

Fortunately, the Reds will have a spectacular home crowd backing them as they chase Asian immortality. Saitama Stadium 2002 is expected to be a sea of red noise, hopeful that they will witness the continent's biggest prize return to Urawa.

The Reds also have form on their side. They’re undefeated in their last 12 matches across all competitions and have allowed only seven goals total in that span, which bodes well for either victory or a scoreless draw. Either will earn Urawa the silverware.

Urawa’s path to the Champions League final was a breathtaking one. They were absolutely dominant, but Al Hilal were always going to be their toughest challenge yet. In the first leg, they were up to it. Now, they are so close to claiming a third Asian title and standing atop the continent once again and everyone in Japanese football is behind them.

Come on you Reds!