YOKOHAMA, Japan (AFP) - A defiant Gamba Osaka insist they are not afraid of Manchester United but the Japanese team face a daunting task against the European champions in their Club World Cup semi-final on Thursday.
It will be one of the biggest games in Gamba's history, but they are handicapped by injuries to attacking midfielders Takahiro Futagawa and Hayato Sasaki, who were stretchered off during their win over Adelaide on Sunday.
Nevertheless, captain Satoshi Yamaguchi believes they have what it takes to tame the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
"We have nothing to lose and we'll go all out, leave everything out there on the pitch," he said.
"We don't want to be thinking after the match that we should have done this and that, and as long as we're playing them, we'll play to win. But we need to make sure we don't play like we did against Adelaide."
In that game, the Asian champions were lucky to survive, with Yasuhito Endo scoring the only goal.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson watched the match on DVD and pinpointed Endo as the danger man, along with their Brazilian striker Lucas.
"He is their star player," the Scot said of Endo. "Not only did he score the decisive goal, he was the influential player in terms of possession of the ball.
"He actually changed his position from where he normally plays behind the centre forward after they lost two players in the first 18 minutes and played towards the left-hand side. And it worked very well.
"Their Brazilian centre forward (Lucas) is also a very good player. He has quick feet and, unusually for a Brazilian, he is tall. He is a very effective player."
Ferguson, who has defended United's decision to make the long trip to Japan in mid-season, has a full squad to pick from. He would not be drawn on whether he will field his first 11, aware that jet lag was still affecting some players.
"It is a serious game. I brought 23 players and therefore I hope I can pick the right team to win the match and make the final," he said.
"It's always difficult when you have so many good players, and that is why we take time to study our opponents, to be able to pick the right team."
United are eager to win the tournament and add a new trophy to their collection, but Ferguson is aware that Japanese football has improved in recent years and says he is not being complacent.
"I've experienced playing in Japan before. We played Urawa Reds twice and they were very difficult opposition because they played with great enthusiasm," he said.
"The improvement in Japanese football is obvious. There is a tremendous improvement in the organisation and team's abilities, so we're expecting a hard game on Thursday.
"Hopefully it is one we can win and go to the final."
Awaiting in Sunday's final will be either Ecuador's Liga de Quito or Mexico's Pachuca.
Despite United having superior skills, physicial strength and experience, Gamba coach Akira Nishino suggested an upset was not just a dream.
"Ferguson may be Ferguson, but I like to think he's human too," Nishino said.
"The same goes for Manchester United and Gamba. We will face them without fear."
The Club World Cup, first organised in its current form in 2005, is an extension of the Intercontinental Cup contested by European and South American champion clubs.
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