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1:00 AM UTC Feb 23, 2017
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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

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Okada orders Japan to go on attack

Japan manager Takeshi Okada wants his players to take some chances in Saturday's crucial Asian World Cup qualifier against Bahrain.

Japan have eight points in Group A, two behind the unbeaten Socceroos and four ahead of Bahrain halfway through the final full round of regional qualifying.

Qatar, who travel to play Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Saturday, are also four points behind Japan.

Okada knows his team can make things a lot easier and put even more pressure on Bahrain with three points from a win at Saitama Stadium.

"We'll take risks when we have to," Okada said.

"All the games are important, but this is one we have to go for. I've picked players who can give that kind of performance."

Australia have the weekend off before Wednesday's meeting with Uzbekistan - one of three home matches the Socceroos have in the last four qualifiers.

Japan defeated Bahrain 3-2 in Manama last September to begin the round and should be too strong at home - but confidence was dented in a 1-1 home draw against Uzbekistan in October.

Including Asian Cup qualifiers, Japan and Bahrain have met four times since Okada returned to the helm of the national team in December 2007 - each team has a two wins apiece.

After Bahrain, Japan faces Uzbekistan away, Qatar at home and Australia away in June.

Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura has been called up along with Wolfsburg's Yoshito Okubo and Makoto Hasebe.

St. Etienne's Daisuke Matsui was also named to the squad.

Japan had trouble scoring in their last home match against Australia, which finished in a scoreless draw at Yokohama.

Okubo has vowed to take a more aggressive approach against Bahrain.

"I think this will be our most important game so far," Okubo told Nikkansports.

"We're playing at home, there will be a lot of supporters there, it's a game we really have to win. I plan on being as aggressive as possible."

Okada is hoping the addition of in-form Albirex Niigata forward Kisho Yano will add some spark to Japan's attack.

Yano, who replaces JEF United's Seiichiro Maki, scored in his team's 2-1 upset win over defending J-League champions Kashima Antlers on March 15.

Okada also recalled Oita Trinita attacking midfielder Mu Kanzaki, who made his international debut earlier this year.

Bahrain stayed in contention with a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan in February and will need a positive result to keep their hopes of automatic qualification alive.

Milan Macala's men will have no time to rest as before hosting Qatar in Manama on April 1.

In a key Group B match, Iran hosts Saudi Arabia in a derby between the two most powerful teams in West Asia.

Iran are on six points in third place in the group - behind South Korea (8) and North Korea (7) - and two points clear of the Saudis.

North Korea have a chance to overhaul South Korea when they hosts winless United Arab Emirates at Pyongyang.

South Korea have the weekend off before hosting the North next Wednesday.


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