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Defiant Gamba eye Man Utd football Club World Cup upset

18 December 2008 03:30

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.

A consolation is that United are also struggling, with Dimitar Berbatov sick with a virus and ruled out of the game, while Wayne Rooney is a doubt after picking up an injury in training.

Gamba captain Satoshi Yamaguchi believes they have what it takes to tame the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney, should he play.

"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 the influential 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, would not be drawn on his starting 11.

But he said veterans Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs would all play.

"They have played a lot of big games and their experience will be vital," he said, adding that Ronaldo was also a definite starter.

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 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 them in Sunday's final, should they win, will be either Ecuador's Liga de Quito or Mexico's Pachuca.

Despite United's superior skills, physical strength and experience, Gamba coach Akira Nishino suggested an upset was not just a dream.

Admitting his side's chances of creating an upset are "close to nil", Nishino said: "We will face them without fear."

"Tomorrow will be a great day for Gamba. We are ready to give 100 percent for the challenge tomorrow," he added.

The Club World Cup, first organised in its current format in 2005, is an extension of the Intercontinental Cup contested by European and South American champion clubs.

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