This week sees the second round of group matches in the Asian Champions League. After a less than inspiring first round will the Korean teams rise like a phoenix from the ashes or continue to prop up the tables like an old Heineken beer mat.
First up in the ridiculously early kick-off we have
Shangdong v Jeonbuk
Jeonbuk must come into this match wondering how they sit on only one point. In their opening match against Kashiwa Reysol they twice had the ball in the net within the first 15 minutes only to see both ruled off for fairly tight offside calls. A decent penalty claim was next and all this within a 1st half played at breakneck speed by the hosts. Unfortunately though it ended up being all show and no go as they failed to make possession count and ultimately drew 0-0. When the groups were drawn Jeonbuk were undoubtedly the best placed Korean team to progress to the knockout stages. It’s not quite at the ‘must win’ stage yet but if they were to lose in China it would leave them needing no more slip ups.
Prediction : Jeonbuk to claim an away point 1-1
Next up on Tuesday we have…
Seongnam v Gamba Osaka
Seongnam had a pretty poor start to the campaign with a 2-1 away defeat to Thai champions Buriram. Both Buriram goals came courtesy of the kind of defending that resembled something you would see down the local park. The first goal especially was as if clearing your lines was a concept introduced on the plane on the way over. Buriram are already a few games into their season and have been getting consistently better in the ACL but it was still a disappointing way to re-introduce yourself to the big stage. Seongnam did play better in the second half and managed to pull one back but by then the match was over. The locals call Tancheon “Fortress Tancheon” and they’ll be hoping to keep up an impressive record which boasts only 1 defeat in 15.
Prediction : Home advantage might just be enough for Seongnam 2-1 victory
Wednesday’s matches throw up a couple of potential cracking matches. First up we have…
Beijing Guoan v Suwon
Suwon head to China after a hard fought but well deserved comeback victory over Urawa Red Diamonds in Round 1. They showed a lot of fight to comeback after conceding on the stroke of half-time. They looked sharp for the most part and if they can carry that form into their away matches they should see themselves in the knockout stages. Beijing will be no pushover mind you, they returned from Brisbane with all three points and will probably feel confident of getting something in this one too.
Prediction : Suwon to keep up their resilience and return undefeated 1-1 draw.
The final match of Round 2 is
FC Seoul v Kashima Antlers
Seoul were drawn in arguably the most difficult group of the four Korean teams. Paired against the two teams who have prevented them from ACL success the last two seasons they also found themselves against Antlers who mirrored Seoul’s 3rd place finish in the J-League last season. When the draw was made Seoul would’ve probably accepted the last round’s away defeat against high-spending Evergrande so long as they won their home matches and snatched a draw in the other ones. Kashima come into this one after a home humbling at the hands of WSW which makes it even more important for Seoul to put a marker down on the group.
Prediction : Seoul to heat up a chilly March evening 2-0 victory