Johor Darul Ta'zim will fly off tonight to Tokyo for arguably the biggest moment of the club's history since their rebranding in 2013, where they will take on 2018 AFC Champions League (ACL) winner Kashima in the group stage of Asia's most elite club competition.
They do so in a positive mood after handing Selangor a 2-4 defeat at Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday. Flying directly from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo, saved the team from unnecessary traveling and will also give the players at least 3 full days of adapting to the colder weather in Japan.
But despite all their earnest planning, the win over Selangor did come at a cost with Mauricio dos Santos and Azrif Nasrulhaq needing to be substituted due to injuries. Figueroa will be sweating over their recovery in the next few days as well as that of Gonzalo Cabrera who had to be taken off as well, although he was able to walk back to the bench on his own.
"We have to see after tomorrow (Sunday) how they are. It's difficult when you lose players because they are good players. We have to see if they can play or not. But we have many players in same level, so everyone can play. We go to Japan and try to make a good game. It will be very difficult. We know that ACL is very high level," said Figueroa after last night's win.
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The match saw JDT's star forward Diogo Luis Santo leading the line well and producing a complete performance with a goal and two assists. The big Brazilian has featured in the ACL previously with Thai club Buriram United and knows all about the demands of the competition.
Figueroa is expecting that the 31-year-old will be the guiding light to some of his more inexperienced team mates but as well will worrying about the nature of his defence who has failed to keep a clean sheet since the opening day against Perak.
"His experience will help the team and his team mates. We have to make use of that but the games in ACL are going to be very tough. In Japan we will try to play well and also defence better. We scored today four goals but they scored two," added Figueroa.
JDT will take on Kashima at the Kashima Soccer Stadium at 6pm (Malaysian time) where they will have the honour of being the first ever Malaysian team to be playing in the group stage.
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Ketua jurulatih Selangor B. Satiananthan enggan mengulas mengenai insiden tamat separuh masa pertama melibatkan bangku simpanannya, bangku simpanan JDT serta pengadil. @faselangormy boss B. Satiananthan is a more cautious man now, and refused to comment on the halftime incident involving his team and @officialjohor benches and the match officials in their Friday Super League match.