The stakes are high when Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) take on Persija Jakarta in the fifth match of the AFC Cup group stage tomorrow at the impressive backdrop of Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. Both are tied together with Song Lam Nghe An on seven points with two matches remaining for each.
With only the top spot in the group guaranteed of a place in the knockout stage, neither teams could afford not to gain all three points tomorrow. Having won the home tie 3-0 against Persija, JDT are looking to complete the double in their first ever AFC Cup match in Indonesia.
"We are anticipating a tough match tomorrow because we know Persija need a win but so do we. We need to win because we want to qualify from the group. We know Persija have good players, a team that are good and confident."
"The game will not be the same as it was in Johor Bahru. It's a different match and environment playing in Jakarta. We will try to win tomorrow. That said, it's important not to lose. They will be tough to beat.
"I think it's fantastic for football to be watched in a packed stadium. Our players are ready and looking forward to play in front of a big crowd," said Raul Longhi in the pre-match press conference today.
The Persija versus Tampines match in late February recorded close to 50,000 attending fans and it created a boisterous atmosphere that can be intimidating to the away team. Considering the sporting rivalry between Malaysia and Indonesia, the attendance is expected to sore even higher in the 76,000 capacity stadium.
As for Stefano Cugurra, the head coach of Persija, his aim will be the same as JDT. Having dusted themselves off the opening group defeat to JDT, they have gone on to earn two wins and a draw in successive matches.
"This our final two matches in the group, together with the other two teams, we all have the same opportunity to qualify to the knockout stage. We have to work hard tomorrow to ensure a good result."
"We are playing in Gelora Bung Karno and everyone in Indonesia will be supporting us. Johor have good quality but we are playing at home. As the coach of Persija, I'm optimistic but at the same time respectful of the opponent. Johor have beaten us once yet we are on the same number of points," said Cugurra in the same press conference.