April 7, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Los Angeles Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. - There will be no nicks or injuries that will keep LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho from appearing in Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal second leg against C.F. Monterrey.
Head coach Bruce Arena and the Brazilian himself have declared the midfielder fit and ready to appear against Monterrey after he was forced to exit the first leg at the 61st minute with what the Brazilian described as a headache.
On Sunday, Juninho returned to the training field for the first time since Wednesday's match and admitted that he was feeling fit and ready.
"It was my first day back, I feel okay. I need a little bit more with the guys; my headache has no pain any more. I'm available for the next game," Juninho told LAGalaxy.com. "I want to help. It's a very tough game [on Wednesday] and everyone knows that. Monterrey has a very good team, but we're prepared. Now let's go win."
As for how the headache occurred, it was not any action during the game that caused the reaction but rather an aftereffect of drinking a shake that did not agree with Juninho's body.
"I drank some water and shake mix. That affected my headache and it stayed through until after the game...It wasn't easy, because my vision was blocked and my focus wasn't the same during the game, but now I'm fine," Juninho said. "I was a little bit lazy the next day after the headache, but after two days of not training, I've been okay."
Having Juninho back in the starting XI is a huge coup for the Galaxy as he was instrumental on both sides of the field last Wednesday. Teamed up with compatriot Marcelo Sarvas, the Brazilian duo were instrumental in sparking offensive forays while also breaking up Monterrey attacks.
ÃÂ Even if Juninho was unable to go, the Galaxy believe that they have the necessary depth - with players like Michael Stephens and Rafael Garcia - to overcome Monterrey.
"Juni is an important player for us and he's important to have in our first XI, but as I've said that we have a very good squad," said goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. "We have a lot of good players that unfortunately sit on the bench, but every time that they've been called in, they do their job."
Healthy and fit, Juninho is expected to play a key role in Wednesday's clash as the LA look to overturn a 2-1 deficit in Mexico. It won't be easy as any loss, draw or even a 1-0 Galaxy win will see Los Rayados advance to the Finals for a third straight year.ÃÂ Making matters more difficult will be the raucous crowd at the Estadio TecnolÃ"gico, which is expected to be completely sold out as Monterrey look to end LA's CCL dreams.
The Galaxy have dealt with Mexican crowds before as they were unlucky not to defeat Monarcas Morelia in a CCL group stage match in September 2011 before falling 2-1 to the home side. Juninho was unable to take part in that match after being sent off in a prior group stage fixture against L.D. Alajuelense, but the Brazilian is eager to prove his meddle in Mexico.
"I like South American crowds, I know what to expect. The fans are very emotional and passionate," said Juninho. "It's going to be a nice and hard game, but if we score an early goal and then two goals then it'll be good. If we score early then it'll be comfortable for us and we only need one more goal, so let's try."
As for the match itself, Juninho insists that the Galaxy have the ability to erase their deficit and take the game to the Mexican giants.
"There are no secrets. We played at home last game and it was very good in the first half, but we slept late in the game and they scored two goals," Juninho asserted. "Next game is going to be the same, we're going to press them and the guys have to be ready for a big game."