Gamba Osaka

Melbourne Victory will face Gamba Osaka in the AFC Champions League 2008.

Gamba Osaka is one of three Japanese clubs that will feature in the AFC Champions League 2008, earning its right to compete after finishing third in the 2007 J.League and second in the 2006 Emperor-s Cup.

Led by a mix of skilled veterans and exciting youngsters, Gamba is renowned for its fighting spirit, which has seen it maintain a strong presence in the J.League since its inception in 1993.

Gamba won its first J.League title in 2005, guaranteeing a spot in the AFC Champions League 2006, where it produced a record equalling 15-0 win against Vietnamese side Da Nang, but failed to advance past the Group Stage.

Gamba recently won the 2007 J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup in November, before sensationally bowing out of the 2007 Emperor-s Cup courtesy of a shock loss to Division 2 outfit Sanfrecce Hiroshima last month.

Gamba hosts a number of Japanese internationals, including Satoshi Yamaguchi, Yasuhito Endo and Akira Kaji, as well as electrifying youngster Michihiro Yasuda, an attacking midfielder who is fast becoming the rising star of Japanese football.

Like a number of Japanese sides, Gamba has a distinct Brazilian influence, with forwards Bare and Lucas, who scored three goals for Brazil at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and defender Mineiro.

Victory will host Gamba at Telstra Dome on Wednesday, 9 April (kick off 7:30pm), before travelling to Osaka – a sister city of Melbourne – to face the Japanese side at Expo -70 Stadium on Wednesday, 23 April.
Expo -70 Stadium

Expo -70 Stadium is a 21,000 capacity multipurpose venue, with running track, that takes its name from the 1970 World Exposition, which was held in Osaka that year.

Gamba was impressive at home last year, recording 17 wins, including matches against eventual J.League winners the Kashima Antlers and second placed Urawa Red Diamonds, four draws and five losses.

Victory can also expect similar conditions to Melbourne in Japan-s second biggest city, where the average high temperature in April is 19 degrees and the average low temperature is around 10 degrees.
Yasuhito Endo

With over 50 international caps to his name, Yasuhito Endo is an experienced defensive midfielder with a lethal free kick that has seen him become known as “the master of Gamba” amongst the club-s faithful.

Short and stocky, Endo, 27, joined Gamba in 2001 and has developed into a versatile player who commands the midfield and has since forged a reputation as one of Japan-s most valuable players.

Australian fans may have seen Endo working tirelessly at the recent 2007 AFC Asian Cup, where he converted his spot kick in Japan-s penalty shootout win over the Socceroos at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam.