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Saitama: Urawa Red Diamonds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa is relishing one final battle against Shanghai SIPG’s star-studded forward line when the sides do battle in the 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final second leg.

The clash at Saitama Stadium will be the fourth time the pair have met in this year’s competition, with each recording a win apiece in Group F before playing out a 1-1 draw in the semi-final first leg in Shanghai.

That away goal means Urawa hold a slight advantage, and Nishikawa knows a clean sheet will be enough to send him and his teammates to a first ACL final since they won the competition in 2007.

“I think they will be battling with a strong belief they can get an away goal too, so there’s a slight pressure on us not to concede,” the 31-year-old said.

“However, we’ve had that experience before (in the Round of 16 and quarter-finals) and I think that will help us in the second leg.

“Battling against such top class players is something I really look forward to.”

Nishikawa is the only goalkeeper to prevent SIPG from scoring in this year’s competition, saving one of Oscar’s two missed penalties in the 1-0 victory on Matchday 4 and foiling him on more than one occasion in the first leg too, but he insists another shutout is not Urawa’s only route to the final.

 

“This year we’ve won every home game in the ACL, so even in matches where we concede first we have real confidence that we are still able to turn things around,” he said.

"While keeping a clean sheet is important, if we do concede then we will just look to score again ourselves and win the game.”

The former Japan No.1 is also hoping success in the ACL will act as a reminder to Vahid Halilhodzic, who has not called him up for the national team since he was left on the bench for the World Cup qualifiers against UAE and Thailand in March.

“At the moment I’m not involved with Japan but I feel I am showing steadily what I can do for Urawa,” added Nishikawa.

“The World Cup is on the horizon and is one target for me. For now I’m focusing on achieving good results for Urawa, but I think that becoming a champion of Asia would be the best way to show what I can do.”

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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