By Ian Griffiths
November 23 – Saturday’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League title decider between Urawa Red Diamonds and Al Hilal is set to break the competition’s attendance record for a two-legged final.
Some 59,136 spectators watched last weekend’s 1-1 draw in Riyadh, while – as of midday local time on Thursday – more than 95 % of tickets for the return fixture at the 58,000-seater Saitama Stadium have already been sold.
The current record was established four years ago when 111,348 fans witnessed the two legs of the 2013 final between eventual winners Guangzhou Evergrande from China and South Korea’s FC Seoul.
“The record attendance for the AFC Champions League final demonstrates the interest that this competition generates. Close on 120,000 people will watch this fascinating clash,” said AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
“The AFC is determined to build on this success in the coming years to fulfil our ambition of providing world class competitions that help raise the standard of football in Asia,” he added.
On the pitch, 2007 champions Urawa head into the game as slight favourites following Brazilian Rafael Silva’s away goal at the King Fahd International Stadium.
Despite seeing his side ride their luck throughout the encounter, not least when the usually clinical Omar Khribin missed two glorious chances for Al Hilal, head coach Takafumi Hori believes Urawa will be an entirely different proposition at home.
“We went through difficult periods in the [first leg] game. But the second game will be something different. In front of our own supporters, we will put in a different performance,” declared the 2017 AFC Coach of the Year nominee.
“But, we have not accomplished anything yet. We must remain focused in the second leg to get a result at home and lift the trophy.”
2017 AFC Champions League Attendance Statistics
Total to date (140 matches): 1,907,915
Highest for a single match: 76, 428 – Esteghlal v Al Ahli at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium
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