Asian Cup Preview: Japan v UAE
Japan's settled starting line-up is helping the reigning champions build momentum at the Asian Cup, as they prepare for their quarter-final against United Arab Emirates.
Coach Javier Aguirre selected the same XI to begin each of Japan's three group matches and they completed a clean sweep on Tuesday with a 2-0 triumph over bogey team Jordan.
With games every four days at the Asian Cup, many coaches have focused on rotation to keep their squads fresh.
But Japan central defender Maya Yoshida insists Aguirre's stance is a benefit for the title-holders.
"[We are] getting better every day and understand each other [better] every day," Yoshida said ahead of Friday's clash.
Japan's next test will be UAE, who finished second in Group C, behind Iran, after losing to the same team in Brisbane on Monday.
A draw would have been enough for UAE but Reza Ghoochannejhad's late strike saw Iran triumph 1-0 and claim top spot.
It also ensured UAE conceded in each of their three group matches and with Japan boasting the likes of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki in the final third, coach Mahdi Ali will need to work on his defence.
In the forward third, Ali can rely on one of the most exciting talents of the 2015 Asian Cup, however, with Omar Abdulrahman having shone as UAE's chief playmaker.
Abdulrahman has impressed with his range of passing, notching an assist in each of UAE's opening two games in Australia, and he will be one to watch in Sydney.
Another player that may be set to explode at ANZ Stadium is Kagawa, who struck his first competitive international goal in Melbourne since the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Kagawa had not scored at all for Japan since a friendly against Zambia in June 2014 and Yoshida was thrilled to see the Borussia Dortmund midfielder back on the scoresheet.
"Very happy for Shinji Kagawa, who scored after a very long time," the Southampton defender added.